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As a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (often inadvertently called the Mormon Church), I am well acquainted with the word Saint. I call myself a Latter-day Saint far more often than I call myself a Mormon. What do I mean by the term? I don’t mean that I consider myself pious, or revered, or angelic. I don’t mean that I have been canonized. I mean that I believe in Jesus Christ and am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ, living in the twenty-first century, as opposed to living during the first century after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Latter-day is a designation referring to the period of time before the second coming of Christ, distinguishing it from Christ’s ancient church. As a member of Christ’s church, I make and keep covenants, strive to obey His commandments, and live close to His teachings.

Either the fullness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to earth through God's chosen latter day prophet or it was not the truth really is not any more complicated than that - M. Russell Ballard

Christ’s Church

The mortal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ was comparatively brief. He lived only thirty-three years, and His ministry was only three years. But in those three years he taught the human family everything that is necessary to receive all of the blessings our Father in Heaven has in store for His children. . . . One of the most important accomplishments of the Savior was the establishment of His church upon the earth.1

The Church of Jesus Christ is the organization of believers who have taken Christ’s name upon themselves through baptism and confirmation and have covenanted to keep God’s commandments. Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints believe that whenever the gospel of Jesus Christ has been on the earth, it has been administered in and through Christ’s church.

To be the true church it must be the Lord’s church, and must have his laws, his name, and be governed by him through representatives whom he has appointed.2  

The Same Organization

The Prophet Joseph Smith, the first president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, detailed the connection between the Latter-day Saint church of Christ and the Former-day Saint church of Christ: “We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.”3

James E. Talmage, one of the former members of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ, elaborated on this article of faith. He said:

 The existence of these officers, and particularly their operation with accompaniments of divine assistance and power, may be taken as a distinguishing characteristic of the Church in any age of the world—a crucial test, whereby the validity or falsity of any claim to divine authority may be determined. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is the everlasting Gospel; its principles, law and ordinances, and the Church organization founded thereon, must be ever the same. In searching for the true Church, therefore, one must look for an organization comprising the offices established of old, the callings of apostles, prophets, evangelists, high priests, seventies, pastors, bishops, elders, priest, teachers, deacons—not men bearing these names merely, but ministers able to vindicate their claim to position as officers in the Lord’s service, through the evidences of power and authority accompanying their ministry.4  

When Jesus called His twelve apostles, He laid His hands upon them, ordained them, and conferred upon them the authority to act in His name and govern His church. The same authority exists in the Latter-day church.

The Aaronic Priesthood was restored on May 15, 1829, under the hands of John the Baptist, and the Melchizedek Priesthood within a month under the hands of the ancient Apostles Peter, James, and John to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery. Thus those possessing the priesthood today claim the power to act in the name of God through the priesthood.

Apostasy: The Period Between Former Day and Latter Day

After the death, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Peter became the chief apostle and led The Church of Jesus Christ. Peter and other church leaders had a difficult time keeping the doctrine of Christ pure. The apostles traveled extensively to congregations of Saints in order to hold the Church together. But their efforts were ultimately in vain; eventually all the apostles (except John the Beloved) were martyred.

With this falling away, priesthood keys were lost, and some precious doctrines of the Church organized by the Savior were changed. Among these were baptism by immersion; receiving the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands; the nature of the Godhead—that They are three distinct personages; all mankind will be resurrected through the Atonement of Christ . . . ; continuous revelation—that the heavens are not closed; and temple work for the living and the dead.6

“Restoration of All Things”

Peter wrote of a coming time of “restoration of all things” (Acts 3:21). It started when religious men recognized that there had been a gradual change to, or falling away from, the church that Jesus Christ organized. Reformers, such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, and John Wesley, sacrificed and suffered for their effort to follow the gospel of Jesus Christ. “These reformers were inspired to create a religious climate in which God could restore lost truths and priesthood authority.”7

Mormons believe that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith and is found in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Either the gospel has been restored or it has not. Either the Savior’s original church and its doctrine were lost or they were not. Either Joseph Smith had that remarkable vision [in 1820] or he did not. . . . Either the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to earth through God’s chosen latter-day prophet or it was not. The truth really is not any more complicated than that.8

Conclusion

The fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ, with priesthood power and authority and organization, connects Latter-day Saints and Former-day Saints. Our loving Heavenly Father wants all His children who now live or who have ever lived upon the earth to enjoy the blessings available through membership in the Church of Jesus Christ. I believe The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a restoration of the original Church established by Jesus Christ.

Notes:

  1. M. Russell Ballard, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1994/10/restored-truth?lang=eng
  2. The Bible Dictionary in the Latter-day Saint edition of the King James Version of the Bible, s.v. “Church.”
  3. Sixth Article of Faith https://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/a-of-f/1?lang=eng
  4. James E. Talmage, A Study of the Articles of Faith (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1890), 199.
  5. James E. Faust, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/the-resoration-of-all-things?lang=eng
  6. James E. Faust, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2006/04/the-resoration-of-all-things?lang=eng
  7. M. Russell Ballard, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1994/10/restored-truth?lang=eng
  8. M. Russell Ballard, https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1994/10/restored-truth?lang=eng

 

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