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?