Evolving Restoration?

by Rocky Hulse

Mormon Semi-Annual Conference April 5th-6th 2014, President Dieter FUchtdorf, 2nd Counselor (right)  to Mormon Prophet/President Thomas SMonson (center) 1st Counselor PresidentHenry BEyring (left). By Rocky Hulse,  May 25, 2014

Being born and raised in the Mormon Church, I took notice of a statement in a talk given at the recent Mormon Semi-Annual Conference held over the April 5th-6th weekend. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, 2nd Counselor to Mormon Prophet/President, Thomas S. Monson, gave an address at the “Priesthood Session” titled “Are you sleeping through the Restoration.”

“In his priesthood session address of the general conference, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf referred to the character RiP Van Winkle, who slept for 20 years and awoke to find he had missed the American Revolution.

‘Today, I would like to take the same theme and propose a question to all of us who hold God’s priesthood: Are you sleeping through the Restoration?’ said President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency.

Rather than being complete at the time of Joseph Smith, the Restoration is an ongoing process, he noted.”

That statement that “the Restoration is an ongoing process” struck me as odd considering that I was never taught that the “Restoration” was ongoing; rather, I was taught that as a Mormon I was a member of the “Restored” Church. There’s a huge difference between “Restored” and an “ongoing Restoration.”

My last newsletter was about activist Mormon women challenging the status quo in Mormonism that only males, 12 years and older may hold the Mormon Priesthood. Also, with the status of marriage being challenged in courts across the nation, it may soon be the case that polygamy is ruled “constitutional.” 

What came to my mind was: Is this member of the “First Presidency” leaving the door open to capitulate to social changes going on in America today? By stating that the “Restoration” is an “ongoing process” allows the Mormon Leadership to change the position held since the Mormon Church was first organized that only men may hold the priesthood. “Ongoing Restoration” would allow a “new revelation” to be received that reverses the previously held position and would give the Mormon Leadership the ability to once again explain away changes to their doctrine that had been previously instituted by a “revelation” from God through one of their prophets.

In 1978 the Mormon Prophet Spencer W. Kimball had a revelation that blacks, which had previously been denied the Mormon Priesthood, could now be ordained into its offices. This monumental change has been explained away in various fashions, but now is being promoted as the failing prejudices of the Church Leaders. Changes now though, could be explained away as just “ongoing Restoration.”

The Restored Church! 

In the Mormon Church, a daily high school class is taught, usually before the regular high school classes begin, which is called “Seminary”. Quite unlike “seminaries” in the Christian world, which are established college institutions with college degree programs of study, Mormon “seminary” is just a one hour class, normally taught at one of their local meeting houses, called a “ward.” One of the four year study courses when I was in high school and attended seminary was Church History and our text was “The Restored Church” by William E. Berrett. I still have the copy I used in my seminary class.

I was taught as a young Mormon boy that I was a member of the “restored” church, “…the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth…” (Doctrine and Covenants, 1:30). I was taught that all other churches were false and the original church of Jesus Christ had been lost to the earth after the death of the apostles and had been restored through Joseph Smith.

“The Gospel Restored” by Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie

The following are excerpts from an article titled “The Gospel Restored.” It was taken from the “lds.org” website. It was a talk delivered by Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie at an area conference held in Tahiti on March 2, 1976:

“We have a glorious message for the world. It is the most wondrous proclamation of the last 2,000 years. It compares with the message of Peter, James, and John of 2,000 years ago. They went forth to proclaim that Jesus had risen from the dead. They testified that the resurrection was a reality.

We come in this day with a proclamation of equal proportions. We announce boldly that the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ has been restored in our day….[notice this is a past tense statement “has been” instead of present tense “is being”]…We have received again every key and power and right that the ancient saints had. [notice this is a past tense statement “have received” not present tense “are receiving”] Once again the voice of God has been heard. Once again angels have ministered from his presence. Once again the Church and kingdom of God has been set up. [notice this is past tense “has been set up” not present tense “is being set up”]

All of these wondrous things were predicted by the prophets of old. Their occurrence in our day began in the spring of 1820. The person chosen of God to be his prophet was named Joseph Smith. This young man desired to know which of all the churches was right. He poured out his soul to God in humble prayer. The hour had come for the opening of the new dispensation. The veil was rent. The heavens were opened. Messengers from eternity appeared. The young man was told that if he were true and faithful, he would be the instrument in the hands of the Lord for restoring again the fulness of the everlasting gospel. He was true to the trust given him.

In process of time, line upon line, the gospel was restored. [This statement is past tense “was restored” not present tense “is being restored”] The Lord had to restore the knowledge and doctrines that the ancient saints had. [This statement is past tense “had to restore” not present tense “is restoring”] In large measure, he did this by giving a new volume of scripture…. we have another great volume of scripture. This volume is named the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon is a history of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas. In it is recorded the plan of salvation. It tells what men have to do to be saved. It is in perfect and complete harmony with the Bible. It expands and clarifies many doctrines. It is a volume of holy scripture. It was given to men in our day by the ministering of angels .… As part of the great restoration the Lord sent many angels to minister to men. These angels gave priesthood and keys. Revelations were received. Arrangement was made to set up again the same organization had by the primitive saints. The name of that organization is The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [These last statements identify the Mormon Church as the “great restoration”] We hold the holy priesthood. Apostles and prophets have been called again upon the earth….The second great truth that men must believe is this: God has in these last days restored the fulness of his everlasting gospel; [The “restored fulness” is a finite statement, not an “ongoing restoration”] …come and take the added light and truth that God has restored in our day [“restored” not “restoring”] ….We testify that there has been a glorious wondrous restoration.” [This “talk” given by Mormon Apostle Bruce R. McConkie, was a statement of finality, it is restored, not a statement of the “ongoing restoration”]

“The Gospel Restored” by Mormon Seventy Hugh W. Pinnock

Hugh W. Pinnock, was selected to be a Mormon General Authority, a Seventy, October 1, 1977. He was selected to be in the Presidency of the Seventy, October 4, 1986. During the October 1980 General Conference of the Mormon Church, Hugh Pinnock gave a talk titled “The Gospel Restored.” Even the title of this talk states the past tense, “Restored” position of Mormonism, not this new twist of “ongoing restoration.” 

I downloaded this talk from www.lds.org. Here are excerpts from that talk that clearly show the finality of the “restoration” rather than this new theme of an “ongoing restoration”:

“As we study this reinstitution and the theological basis of the Church, we will find ourselves thinking about the questions that so many others have asked. What is the explanation for the growth and the amazing influence of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? What does make Mormons different? Perplexed scholars, social critics, religionists, and cultural observers have given many answers. Their responses have ranged from describing the Church as a social abnormality that appeals to accomplishment-oriented people to such a simplistic idea as a  conservative church always generates interest during troubled times.

However, the more deeply one wonders what makes us different from our nonmember friends and neighbors, the more certain is the answer: the Redeemer and other heavenly messengers personally restored the everlasting gospel to the earth. [“restored” is finite – no wiggle room] That is why we are here….Fortunately, the Restoration gives us the panacea that mends, directs, corrects, and heals; but if we don’t conform to this great God-given system, we will be like those unwise maidens who did not trim their wicks and fill their lamps with oil. We as a people areaction-oriented and work-inclined. Conformance to this eternal system of energy expenditures does provide the only complete set of answers, which the world so desperately needs.”

Notice that this last few sentences are absolute in that this Mormon General Authority unequivocally states that “conformance to this eternal system [Mormonism]…does provide the only complete set of answers…” [this finite statement “complete”, leaves no room for flexibility, nothing pertaining to an ongoing restoration]

As a born and raised Mormon who had it indelibly etched on their brain that Mormonism is the “restored Gospel,” I can’t help but wonder if this new “ongoing” twist is just a way to gloss over upcoming socially driven changes to their doctrine.