The Ongoing Restoration

Next time Gospel Doctrine class starts to drag, raise your hand and ask:  “How do we reconcile our claim to have the fulness of the gospel with the ninth article of faith?  If the truth has already been revealed, what is the purpose of continuing revelation?”

I have had this discussion with four different active members, and I’ve heard four different answers.  If we think of the restoration as a process, it is worth asking if the process is close to being complete, or if it is just getting a good start.  

The answer we give to that question has some interesting implications.  For instance, was the restoration of the priesthood completed on June 8, 1978, or do we believe that there are still “many great and important things” to be revealed?  Is the Proclamation to the World  the Final Word on the questions of the duties of husbands and wives, gender, the nature of families, and eternal roles?  Or is it proper to see it as a necessary first step towards defining the questions and sorting through the issues, and subject to later revision?

If Brother Jones thinks the restoration is just getting warmed up, he runs the risk of discounting the revelations that have been given and ignoring the prophet and his predecessors.  There’s no sense in having revelation if you don’t pay attention to it.  But the more he moves in the direction of seeing the restoration as already fully accomplished, the more he diminishes the role of future revelation and future prophets.  If there is nothing left for them to reveal, what do we expect them to do?  And if he says “This is the Fulness, and it is immutable”, he starts to sound a lot like the bitter ex- or anti-Mo’ who says “That is all there is to Mormonism, and it will never change.” 

Joesph Smith, Jr. said: 

That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another. God said, ‘Thou shalt not kill'; at another time He said, ‘Thou shalt utterly destroy.’ This is the principle on which the government of heaven is conducted—by revelation adapted to the circumstances in which the children of the kingdom are placed. Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.’

Dean C. Jessee (editor), The Personal Writings of Joseph Smith, p. 507

Jimmy Buffett describes a tattoo as “a permanent reminder of a temporary feeling”.  We make a serious error if we think that God’s temporary “revelation adapted to the circumstances” is permanent and eternal Truth.  We would do well to remember that eternity might be very different from current circumstances in many ways.  

 So, how do you answer the question?  If the restoration is compared to a building, how close is the building to being finished?  Are we attaching the last few shingles to the roof, or are we still putting rebar in the foundation?

Comments

  1. I’ll go first and say that I think the restoration is 15-20% complete. Not only do I not think we have all the answers, I do not think we have even asked all the questions yet.

  2. I like to describe what you are getting with the idea of the “living church.” Many people will testify of the “true church,” but when God testified, he said it was the “true and living church.” Something living is constantly changing and is never the same.

  3. I think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. Future revelation does not diminish the value of past revelations. It may add to, or even supplant, what has been said in the past. We have the fulness for our time and place. Everything in its season, etc.

    To use your analogy, I don’t think we even have a clue what the final building will look like, so to speculate is just that, speculation. Of course, that’s about 90% of the bloggernacle.

  4. If the restoration is compared to a building then it must be the Winchester Mansion.

  5. I think we acknowledge that there may be future revelation coming, but we’re graded on the revelation we have today.

  6. J. is right on here. Sometimes I am surprised, though, at how stridently some will defend the idea that the church is never changing (at least anything of significance). This was a focus of discussion in our HPG recently. Made for some very awkward moments.

  7. This calls to mind the End of Science debate a decade ago. John Horgan wrote a book laying out the concept that the discovery of correct theories sets a bound to what is left to discover; if they didn’t, then the theories wouldn’t count for much.

    Anticipation of things yet to be revealed ought not to diminish regard for those things already revealed. Someone who hopes for an onrolling of restoration of fulness isn’t going to cut himself off from its present.

  8. We had the first 70 years of Mormonism to restore everything, and the next 70+ to remove everything restored, as it is now considered unnecessary and unwanted.

  9. J. Stapley (#2),

    Living and growing up. I loved reading in David O. McKay and the Rise of Modern Mormonism, how evident the Church’s growing pains were in the prophet’s notes & comments.

    I think the toughest revelations for (a portion of) the Saints to embrace are the ones that fly in the face of previous ones, particularly with the social changes.

    Imagine if the legalization of polygamy is passed and the prophet receives revelation that we can return to that practice, how that would fly. Or if the Word of Wisdom might be amended to “moderation” (Okay, those things will probably never happen, but you get the point). It’s a lot easier to accept than, say, an official proclamation to the separation of church and state.

  10. I think the toughest revelations for (a portion of) the Saints to embrace are the ones that fly in the face of previous ones, particularly with the social changes.

    Agreed. I think the quote Mark used in the post evidences this. The letter he quotes from is believed to written by JS to Nancy Rigdon (Sidney’s daughter) after she rejected his proposal of (plural) marriage.

  11. I think we have a great and complete foundation, with a couple of sturdy wings constructed. However, remodeling is going on with those, and the builder isn’t letting us look at the plans for the rest of the building yet. Nor has he shared the budget, other than to say that it will cost more than we have already spent.

  12. Kevin Barney says:

    I remember when I was in law school, and a guy got up in our student ward and talked about how there really was no need for further revelation, it had all been revealed and the prophets were just caretakers now. I remember how shocked I was by such an attitude, and I expressed a contrary view, that otherwise there’s not much point to evincing a vigorous belief in continuing revelation. So that was pretty much my first introduction to this issue.

    I can understand where the view that it’s complete and there’s nothing else to do comes from. There’s not a lot of dynamic revelation coming out of SLC today; it appears to be more bureaucratic and caretaker in nature. We haven’t added to the canon since 1975.

    Still, I think there’s a lot more work to do. I’m still waiting for the revelation granting women the priesthood, for instance…

  13. Kev, OD3? Or maybe you meant to type 1978 and fatfingered the 5 instead.

    Yeah, I can sort of see where the caretaker idea comes from. Still, I think church leadership has more to do than issue periodic warnings about food storage and pornography. Since 1980, there have been several changes to our most sacred rites, for instance.

  14. Kevin Barney says:

    Oh, I forgot about OD2. I was thinking of D&C 137 and 138.

  15. We might not know if anything “dynamic” has been received in SLC. After all, polygamy was pretty “dynamic” and not known to the church at large for a few years!

  16. nasamomdele says:

    The fulness of the Gospel has nothing to do with having all the answers. The fulness of the Gospel as described by Christ in scripture and in our articles of faith simply refers to the behavior expected and principles needed to make covenants with God so that we can receive salvation. Knowing everything was never part of the deal (until the salvation part). Knowledge takes a back seat to wisdom.

  17. Agree with nasamomdele.

    The Fulness of the Gospel refers to the fact that all the necessary ordinances and practices have been restored.

    I’m not certain here, but I believe each dispensation had the fulness of the Gospel and were subsequently lost. I remember reading something to that effect in the past. Anyone else?

    The fulness certainly does not imply there is nothing left. Only an uncharitable, overzealous reading into the word fulness would do that. It sounds kind of like the language antimormons use to force someone into a box they don’t believe with.

  18. I would echo #16 as well, but replace salvation with exaltation. Fullness of the gospel is what we need to get home. One of the most challenging AoF is #9. That’s a very bold claim. More revelation will come. Whether it will be grand or small, doctrinally profound, or temporally practicable, it will come. Our church is founded on revelation, and lives and breathes it. The church lives, and we through it.

  19. Not to pile on, but I also agree with #16-18 and think this is a false dycotemy. There is a lot (perhaps an infinite amount) of truth and it will take us a long time (perhaps eternity) to learn it all. You could say, “Yes, but not all truth is part of the gospel.” Well, that’s arguable, but even accepting that I think it’s still fair to say there is a huge amount (perhaps infinite) of knowledge related to spiritual affairs that we don’t yet know. If you assume an infinite amount of truth, or at least an unimaginably large amount, then we know x%, where x is the closest number possible to 0.

    Fullness simply refers to what we need to know and do to receive exaltation.

  20. That’s “dichotomy”. Wow, I really butchered that one.

  21. So, a man can be saved in ignorance after all.

  22. John – define “saved”? :) Resurrected? Yes.

    Admitted to the Celestial Kingdom? No.

  23. sam, it seems to me that we might want to use the definition the Lord gave in section 76. Speaking of the telestial kingdom, it reads “for they shall be heirs of salvation.”

  24. J,

    I agree. The gift of eternal life would constitute salvation for me as well. Saved from the dead, and more, so to speak.

    That being the case, the vast majority of all people will be saved through the atonement and by the grace of Jesus Christ, correct?

  25. The fulness of the gospel is anchored in the truth that Christ lived, died, was resurrected, and marked a path to follow. Continuing revelation and change are a part of the fulness. Additionally, we believe all that God has revealed, but that doesn’t mean we understand all that He has revealed.

  26. Sorry that I’m so late to the party.

    Pres. Young defined the fullness of the gospel as plural marriage, united order and law of consecration. I’m pretty sure we don’t have the first 2 and I’ve not seen evidence of the 3rd.

    So does that echo Mahonri’s thoughts. Perhaps we had the fullness and lost it along the way?

    Steve

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