Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Strait and Narrow

As Jesus Christ concluded what came to be known as the Sermon on the Mount, He uttered a profound and often overlooked truth. Speaking of the way to eternal life, Jesus said:
Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:

Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it. Matthew 7:13-14
What is so profound is the word "strait." Think about how often you use this word. Initially you may think that it is pretty common, but I would guess that you are thinking of one of its homophones, "straight." It sounds the same, but the meaning is significant.
Adjective Strait-
1. Narrow
2. Affording little space; confined in area
3. Strict, as in requirements or principles

Adjective Straight-
1. Without a bend, angle, or curve; not curved; direct
2. Honest, honorable, or upright, as conduct, dealings, methods, or persons
3. Continuous or unbroken
(These are just a few of the definitions of "Straight" among several)
It is no accident that Jesus used the word "strait." The gate and path that lead to eternal life are not straight or direct, but they are narrow and strict in requirement.

Another way to understand this is to think of a ship and its navigation. Frequently a ship needs to go between two pieces of land in order to arrive into a larger, more navigable body of water or to arrive in port and avoid coral or other bodies of water that may not be deep enough to accommodate the vessel. In order to accomplish the task, a vessel would need to navigate through a strait such as the one pictured below.

Strait of Gibraltar

This is a picture of the Strait of Gibraltar. On the left is Spain and on the right is Morocco. The narrow separation of water between the two land masses is the only natural passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. As you can see, the passage can hardly be called direct or straight, but it is by comparison very narrow.

So it is with the gospel of Jesus Christ. If the gospel required humans to be perfect then only one man would ever have received eternal life, Jesus Christ himself. So we can dispell that the way to eternal life is straight. However it is clear from the scriptures that there will be other people who will receive eternal life, including the prophets, yet many more who will think that they are on the path to eternal life and think that they know Jesus but will ultimately find out that they were led astray. For those who do not attain eternal life it can be said that they either never entered by the strait gate or stayed on the narrow path. Note this scripture from the book of Luke.
Strive to enter in at the strait gate: for many, I say unto you, will seek to enter in, and shall not be able.

When once the master of the house is risen up, and hath shut to the door, and ye begin to stand without, and to knock at the door, saying, Lord, Lord, open unto us; and he shall answer and say unto you, I know you not whence ye are:

Then shall ye begin to say, We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and thou hast taught in our streets.

But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all ye workers of iniquity.

There shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when ye shall see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out.

And they shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God. Luke 13:24-29
If we trust in Jesus and really believe Him, then there must be a strait and narrow gate and way that leads to eternal life. As the previous scripture clearly shows that there will be more than One who shall inherit eternal life, we must also understand that we do not have to be perfect to receive this great blessing, but we certainly must abide according to what Jesus Christ outlines for us.
So what has He outlined for us? What is the gate and what is the way? In a merciful revelation to an ancient prophet named Nephi, we find the answers to these questions. The answers that have been lost for centuries and are still unknown to the majority of the world.
Wherefore, do the things which I have told you I have seen that your Lord and your Redeemer should do; for, for this cause have they been shown unto me, that ye might know the gate by which ye should enter. For the gate by which ye should enter is repentance and baptism by water; and then cometh a remission of your sins by fire and by the Holy Ghost.

And then are ye in this strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life; yea, ye have entered in by the gate; ye have done according to the commandments of the Father and the Son; and ye have received the Holy Ghost, which witnesses of the Father and the Son, unto the fulfilling of the promise which he hath made, that if ye entered in by the way ye should receive.

And now, my beloved brethren, after ye have gotten into this strait and narrow path, I would ask if all is done? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; for ye have not come thus far save it were by the word of Christ with unshaken faith in him, relying wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save.

Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life.

And now, behold, my beloved brethren, this is the way; and there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God. And now, behold, this is the doctrine of Christ, and the only and true doctrine of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, which is one God, without end. Amen. 2 Nephi 31:17-21
In these few verses we learn that in order to receive eternal life Jesus Christ has instructed us, as He was commanded by Heavenly Father, that we must have faith in Jesus Christ, repent of our sins, be baptized by water, receive of the Holy Ghost and then follow the Savior the rest of our lives. This is the strait and narrow path that leads to eternal life and it is a path that we have the privilege to travel during this mortal life.

It is not surprising that in this dispensation God revealed these same requirements to Joseph Smith. Instead of calling it the "strait gate" and the "narrow path", Joseph referred to it as the first principles and ordinances of the gospel.
We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are: first, Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ; second, Repentance; third, Baptism by immersion for the remission of sins; fourth, Laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. Articles of Faith 1:4
I echo the words of the prophet Jacob. Said he:
O then, my beloved brethren, repent ye, and enter in at the strait gate, and continue in the way which is narrow, until ye shall obtain eternal life.

O be wise; what can I say more? Jacob 6:11-12

Sunday, February 21, 2010

The Rest of the Scriptures

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints calls as scripture four books of sacred writings: The Holy Bible, The Book of Mormon, The Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price. These four books are referred to as the Church's Canon. Canon is a word of Greek origin, originally meaning "a rod for testing straightness," now used to denote the authoritative collection of the sacred books used by the true believers in Christ. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the canonical books are called standard works. LDS Bible Dictionary: Canon

Equally important to understand is that the words expressed by modern-day elders, and in particular prophets and apostles, either verbally or written while under the influence of the Holy Ghost are also scripture. This point was made clear in the following revelation given to Joseph Smith in November of 1831 at the request of four elders of the church, Orson Hyde, Luke S. Johnson, Lyman E. Johnson, and William E. McLellin, to know the Lord's will concerning them.
My servant, Orson Hyde, was called by his ordination to proclaim the everlasting gospel, by the Spirit of the living God, from people to people, and from land to land, in the congregations of the wicked, in their synagogues, reasoning with and expounding all scriptures unto them.

And, behold, and lo, this is an ensample unto all those who were ordained unto this priesthood, whose mission is appointed unto them to go forth—

And this is the ensample unto them, that they shall speak as they are moved upon by the Holy Ghost.

And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation. Doctrine & Covenants 68:1-4
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, also known as the LDS Church, has other useful study aids such as the Bible Dictionary and the Topical Guide; however these are not recognized as scripture.

Up to this point, I have purposely limited my use of the scriptures and drawn mainly examples and teachings from the Bible. My reason for doing this was to at least try and find some common ground with those who may not be Christian but do know of the Bible's existence and perhaps some of its teachings. Additionally, I have done this to lay common ground with those who may read this who already believe in Jesus Christ and are constantly seeking to follow Him. I have attempted to the best of my ability to explain the basic doctrines that I believe are essential to understand if one is to begin to truly come unto Christ and follow Him.

The Bible is what most of the world knows, so I thought it best to start there. However, as I hope you will come to realize through future posts, the true gospel of Jesus Christ could not be expressed and explained accurately without the rest of the scriptures. Therefore, it is my intent that from this point forward I will use all of the scriptures that I have described above, from the standard works to the words of modern-day prophets and apostles. My prayer is that we may all come to understand the scriptures and, as a consequence, the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Origin of the Book of Mormon and the Bible

In my posting "The First Vision" I described the initial revelation that was given to the young boy Joseph Smith Jr. It is a remarkable story; some may say an unbelievable story. Because it does seem like something that just doesn't happen in modern times, I can understand the inclination to discount the experience and all that Joseph Smith did after that experience as farce. But before you do discount the story, the man, and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints he went on to establish, I invite you to examine the greatest evidence that Joseph Smith was divinely chosen to be a prophet, the Book of Mormon.

Before I explain more concerning the origin of the Book of Mormon, I feel it is proper to address, in part, the origin of the Holy Bible. I feel this is important because the Bible is widely accepted as true, however I don't believe I would be exaggerating when I say that the majority of those that do accept it as true have ever questioned why they think it is true. They have likely accepted it as truth without much consideration regarding where the book came from and how it came into being. I believe that touching on the origin of the Bible will help give a proper context when considering the origin of the Book of Mormon.

First, the word "bible." The word "bible" is of Greek origin, being derived from ta biblia (the books). In course of time "biblia," a neuter plural, was regarded as a feminine singular and in that way "the books" came to be spoken of as "the book." We must therefore understand that that the Bible is not a single book but rather a divine library of books. Source

The Holy Bible today comes in many different versions: The King James Version, The Revised Standard Version, and The New International Version to name just a few. It is wonderful that this book of scriptures is so widely available today, but it was not always so. The Bible had to be compiled from various records. The Bible as we have it today is the product of thousands of well-intentioned people, and some not-so-well-intentioned people, trying to preserve ancient records. What may even surprise some people is that the world does not have any original writings from any of the biblical authors. Not Moses, not Isaiah, not Matthew, not Peter, not even Jesus Christ. So from where did the Bible come?

The short answer is that the writings were copied from manuscripts which were copies of manuscripts which were copies of translated manuscripts which were translated. I'm oversimplifying, but this is the idea. We do not have Moses' original writings. Someone copied down his writings who copied his writings and then translated it into another language. That new language was then copied down and recopied and so on. There are many ancient manuscripts that still exist, but none are originals. Some people may have heard of the Dead Sea Scrolls, but even these are simply copies of an original manuscript, or more correctly copies of copies of copies. One need only spend about 15 minutes researching the Septuagint, Masoretic, and Vulgate manuscripts and it should become quite clear that the Holy Bible as you read it today has gone through hundreds if not thousands of translations, omissions, and revisions.

Bible scholars spend their lives researching the origins of the Bible. My purpose is not to attempt to reproduce or add on to their work, but to illustrate the point that the Bible came into being through the works of many hundreds if not thousands of scribes, translators, and leaders. I would direct you to these links for a more thorough explanation of the Bible's origin: LDS Bible Dictionary:Bible; LDS Bible Dictionary:Bible, English.

The confusion of the origin of the Bible aside, I know it to contain the truth. I was once asked "How do you know that the Bible is true?" I'll give you my response toward the end of this post. But the question is valid for everyone, how do YOU know that the Bible is true? Or if you don't know if the Bible is true, how can you know for yourself if it is true? The answers to these questions are found in the Book of Mormon.

The origin of the Book of Mormon is pretty easy to understand when compared with the Bible. In fact it is so easy to understand that its explanation is found in just a few paragraphs inside of every Book of Mormon. Quoting from the Introduction to the Book of Mormon:
The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with the ancient inhabitants of the Americas and contains, as does the Bible, the fulness of the everlasting gospel.

The book was written by many ancient prophets by the spirit of prophecy and revelation. Their words, written on gold plates, were quoted and abridged by a prophet-historian named Mormon. The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C., and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites. The other came much earlier when the Lord confounded the tongues at the Tower of Babel. This group is known as the Jaredites. After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are among the ancestors of the American Indians.

The crowning event recorded in the Book of Mormon is the personal ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ among the Nephites soon after his resurrection. It puts forth the doctrines of the gospel, outlines the plan of salvation, and tells men what they must do to gain peace in this life and eternal salvation in the life to come.

After Mormon completed his writings, he delivered the account to his son Moroni, who added a few words of his own and hid up the plates in the hill Cumorah. On September 21, 1823, the same Moroni, then a glorified, resurrected being, appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith and instructed him relative to the ancient record and its destined translation into the English language.

In due course the plates were delivered to Joseph Smith, who translated them by the gift and power of God. The record is now published in many languages as a new and additional witness that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God and that all who will come unto him and obey the laws and ordinances of his gospel may be saved. Introduction
I don't think that there is anything I can add that can simplify the explanation of the origin of the Book of Mormon. The Book of Mormon either came into being exactly as described above, or it came into being some other way. If the Book of Mormon was written anciently by prophets of God in their native language on gold plates and then preserved by the power of God and subsequently given to Joseph Smith by an angel and then translated by Joseph Smith by the gift and power of God then can there be any conclusion other than Joseph Smith was indeed a prophet? I am open to listening to any other explanation, but my conviction is that Joseph Smith was a prophet and I know it by the Holy Ghost.
The Book of Mormon's final writer, Moroni, extended an invitation and promise to everyone who reads the Book of Mormon. The invitation is to ask God in the name of Jesus Christ if the book is true. The promise is that God will reveal that it is true to you by the Holy Ghost, or the feelings of joy, happiness, peace, hope, and faith that will be put in your heart. That is how the Holy Ghost speaks to us, in our hearts (Galatians 5:22-23). I know the promise is true. I have felt the Holy Ghost confirm in my heart that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that you too can know for yourself, but you must be willing to read the book, or at the very least part of the book, and exercise faith in Christ when you ask Heavenly Father if the book is true. Here is Moroni's invitation and promise:
Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things. Moroni 10:3-5
Let's say that you want to pursue this invitation and promise. What would it mean if you received an answer to your personal prayers that the Book of Mormon is true? The answer is explained in the introduction to the book.
We invite all men everywhere to read the Book of Mormon, to ponder in their hearts the message it contains, and then to ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ if the book is true. Those who pursue this course and ask in faith will gain a testimony of its truth and divinity by the power of the Holy Ghost. (See Moroni 10: 3-5.)

Those who gain this divine witness from the Holy Spirit will also come to know by the same power that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world, that Joseph Smith is his revelator and prophet in these last days, and that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the Lord’s kingdom once again established on the earth, preparatory to the second coming of the Messiah. Introduction
The Book of Mormon was compiled by the ancient prophet Mormon. It consists of sacred books written by ancient prophets who lived in the Americas during the same time as the people described in the Bible. It was written on gold plates in the language of reformed Egyptian (Mormon 9:32). Centuries after the plates were written Joseph Smith received the plates by the hand of the Angel Moroni and translated them into English (Testimony of The Prophet Joseph Smith). This is a miraculous origin, but nonetheless true!

Going back to the question I was once asked, "How do you know that the Bible is true?" At the time, I was a bit stumped. I knew that it was true by the Holy Ghost, but still what was the impetus that led to the Holy Ghost testifying to me the Bible was true? After thinking about if for a while, the answer came into my mind and heart..."I know the Bible is true because I know that the Book of Mormon is true!"

It wasn't until later that I understood just how profound that realization was. I discovered that one of the purposes of the Book of Mormon is to prove to the world that the Bible is true. This may seem silly. You may think, "Well of course the Bible is true, it's The Holy Bible!" Considering all of the translating, omissions, and errors that went into compiling the Bible doesn't it seem natural that God would prepare another set of scriptures that would corroborate the claims made in the Bible? The Book of Mormon does just that.

In the Book of Mormon, a prophet named Nephi, who lived around 600 B.C., saw in a vision the coming forth of the Bible and the Book of Mormon. The Bible is described as a book coming forth from the Jews and that through time the book (Bible) had many plain and precious truths taken away from it. Nephi saw that the book (Bible) went among the Gentiles (all who were not Jews, including but not limited to the Romans who adopted Christianity) but many would come under Satan's power (Apostasy) because of the plain truths that had been removed from the book (Bible). But Nephi saw that the Lord would be merciful unto the Gentiles and unto Nephi's posterity and minister unto Nephi's posterity insomuch that they would write down their dealings with God (Book of Mormon) and it would come forth along with other records (Doctrine & Covenants, and The Pearl of Great Price) to establish the truth of the first record (Bible). I have condensed the scripture a bit below, but I would invite you to read the entire chapter if possible.
And it came to pass that I, Nephi, beheld that they did prosper in the land; and I beheld a book, and it was carried forth among them.

And the angel said unto me: Knowest thou the meaning of the book?

And I said unto him: I know not.

And he said: Behold it proceedeth out of the mouth of a Jew. And I, Nephi, beheld it; and he said unto me: The book that thou beholdest is a record of the Jews, which contains the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; and it also containeth many of the prophecies of the holy prophets; and it is a record like unto the engravings which are upon the plates of brass, save there are not so many; nevertheless, they contain the covenants of the Lord, which he hath made unto the house of Israel; wherefore, they are of great worth unto the Gentiles.

And the angel of the Lord said unto me: Thou hast beheld that the book proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew; and when it proceeded forth from the mouth of a Jew it contained the fulness of the gospel of the Lord, of whom the twelve apostles bear record; and they bear record according to the truth which is in the Lamb of God.

Wherefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God.

And after these plain and precious things were taken away it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles; and after it goeth forth unto all the nations of the Gentiles, yea, even across the many waters which thou hast seen with the Gentiles which have gone forth out of captivity, thou seest—because of the many plain and precious things which have been taken out of the book, which were plain unto the understanding of the children of men, according to the plainness which is in the Lamb of God—because of these things which are taken away out of the gospel of the Lamb, an exceedingly great many do stumble, yea, insomuch that Satan hath great power over them.

Wherefore saith the Lamb of God: I will be merciful unto the Gentiles, unto the visiting of the remnant of the house of Israel in great judgment.

And it came to pass that the angel of the Lord spake unto me, saying: Behold, saith the Lamb of God, after I have visited the remnant of the house of Israel—and this remnant of whom I speak is the seed of thy father—wherefore, after I have visited them in judgment, and smitten them by the hand of the Gentiles, and after the Gentiles do stumble exceedingly, because of the most plain and precious parts of the gospel of the Lamb which have been kept back by that abominable church, which is the mother of harlots, saith the Lamb—I will be merciful unto the Gentiles in that day, insomuch that I will bring forth unto them, in mine own power, much of my gospel, which shall be plain and precious, saith the Lamb.

For, behold, saith the Lamb: I will manifest myself unto thy seed, that they shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious; and after thy seed shall be destroyed, and dwindle in unbelief, and also the seed of thy brethren, behold, these things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb.

And in them shall be written my gospel, saith the Lamb, and my rock and my salvation.

And it came to pass that I beheld the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the book of the Lamb of God, which had proceeded forth from the mouth of the Jew, that it came forth from the Gentiles unto the remnant of the seed of my brethren.

And after it had come forth unto them I beheld other books, which came forth by the power of the Lamb, from the Gentiles unto them, unto the convincing of the Gentiles and the remnant of the seed of my brethren, and also the Jews who were scattered upon all the face of the earth, that the records of the prophets and of the twelve apostles of the Lamb are true.

And the angel spake unto me, saying: These last records, which thou hast seen among the Gentiles, shall establish the truth of the first, which are of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and shall make known the plain and precious things which have been taken away from them; and shall make known to all kindreds, tongues, and people, that the Lamb of God is the Son of the Eternal Father, and the Savior of the world; and that all men must come unto him, or they cannot be saved.

And they must come according to the words which shall be established by the mouth of the Lamb; and the words of the Lamb shall be made known in the records of thy seed, as well as in the records of the twelve apostles of the Lamb; wherefore they both shall be established in one; for there is one God and one Shepherd over all the earth. 1 Nephi 13:20-25, 29, 33-36, 38-41
How can you know if the Bible is true? The Book of Mormon was given to mankind to convince us all that Jesus is the Christ. When you discover by the Holy Ghost that the Book of Mormon is true, you will also know that the Bible is true. I know that both the Bible and the Book of Mormon contain the truth and the word of God. They are both of divine origin. Both contain the true gospel of Jesus Christ, and of the two, the Book of Mormon contains the clearest explanation of what the gospel of Jesus Christ is.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given..."

Prophets had long foretold the advent of the Savior of the World. There may be people who read this who question, and very rightfully so, the need for a Savior. From what exactly do you or I or anyone need to be saved? And if it is assumed that we must be saved, why or how does a certain person save us? These are very valid questions.

It is possible that if you are someone who has these questions and if you ask these questions to others, especially to other Christians, you may find a negative reaction. You may even find that people look at you as though you are uttering blasphemies, or showing irreverent behavior toward anything held sacred. As if to say to you, "How could you possibly question the need for a Savior?"

No one should be made to feel evil for trying to understand one of the most important ideas in all of Christianity. There are answers to these questions. In this post I will touch on them briefly and will engage in a more thorough discussion of them in a future posting. My intent is not to belittle people's questions or ideas, but to hopefully help provide answers to questions that at some point in our lives should stir within all of our hearts and minds.

On December 25th of each year a special event in the history of humankind is remembered, honored, and celebrated. The event is the birth of a baby, a special baby, a baby unlike any other before or since. It is the birth of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

As I mentioned, the coming of a Savior was foretold from the foundation of the world and ever since by prophets. God the Father spoke of this in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:14-15). Jacob prophesied to his sons of the coming of one whose right it is and that He would come through Jacob's lineage (Genesis 49:10, 24). Moses prophesied to the Israelites of a future Prophet to whom they should listen (Deuteronomy 18:15). The psalmist speaks of the future crucifixion of the Savior (Psalms 22:16; 34:20). Micah prophesied that the birth place of the Savior would be in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2).

The prophet Isaiah most notably prophesied of the birth of the Savior.
Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14
Immanuel is translated in Hebrew to mean "With us is God" (See also Matthew 1:23). Isaiah continued his prophesy.
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6
And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation. Isaiah 25:9
Later Isaiah gave a description of both the Savior's outward appearance to the world and the inward spiritual power and authority He would possess.
For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah 53:2-5
So why all the prophesies? Why was it so important that this little baby Jesus be born? What was His purpose? Why is it said that we need to be saved? My response is that these answers are not simple, but they are plain. What I mean by this is the answers are easy enough for a child to understand, but the details behind them are so beautiful, lofty, and inspiring that only through the Holy Ghost could one learn them all. As I said, I will briefly touch on these subjects here, and in future postings go into further details.

To understand why we as human race need a Savior and what the purpose was of the Savior, we must understand the nature of our relationship to God. There is a reason why we call God "Father." God is literally the Father of all human beings (Malachi 2:10, Acts 17:28-29, Romans 8:16). Our lives existed before we were born into this world through our earthly parents (Job 38: 4, 7; Jeremiah 1:5). We lived with God, our Father, in heaven. He wanted to give us, His children, the opportunity to become like Him.

God's plan involved sending His sons and daughters, you and I, to earth so that we could obtain a body and be proven to see if we would keep God's commandments (Genesis 1:26-27; John 15:10; Revelation 22:14; Romans 8:16-17). Lucifer or Satan was not always the devil. Lucifer was also a spirit son of God. He rebelled against God and His plan. There followed a war in heaven, which resulted in Satan being cast out of the presence of God along with 1/3 of the spirit sons and daughters of heaven who followed Satan and rebelled against God. They were cast down to earth without receiving bodies of their own to tempt us and try to prevent us from keeping the commandments of God (Isaiah 14:12-20; Luke 10:18; Revelation 12:4-13).

The most important part of God's plan revolved around how to be able to bring us back into His presence. God knew that when we came to earth we would be tempted and that at times we would not obey the commandments of God perfectly (Romans 3:23). When we disobey God's commandments we commit sin (1 John 5:17). The problem is that once we have committed a sin, we are no longer clean or worthy to return to God's presence (Psalms 140:13; Daniel 12:2; Matthew 25:46). In essence as soon as we sin in this life, we are doomed. Knowing this, God prepared a way to overcome the effects of sin by providing a Savior, His son Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ lived a perfect life, free of sin. He obeyed all of the Father's commandments perfectly (Hebrews 5:8-9). The law of justice demands that if a law is broken, a punishment must be paid. If someone who committed no crimes and broke no laws of God paid the punishments of all broken laws and commandments for everyone then that person would then have fulfilled all the demands of justice. In essence, that person could then determine what requirements would need to be met for the person who had originally broken the commandment or law. This is also called extending mercy.

Let me use an example with which you might be able to relate. Let's say that one of your children broke a neighbor's window. Justice will demand at the very least that the window be replaced and perhaps a punishment of an extra amount of money be paid to the neighbor for the inconvenience that was created. You know that there is no way that your child will be able to fulfill all that is now demanded because of the requirements of justice. So in place of your child replacing the window and paying the extra penalty for the inconvenience, you have the ability to fulfill these demands for your child but with the understanding of your child that you will then set the terms of what your child will need to do as a consequence of their actions. It is agreed upon and you fulfill to your neighbor what is required, they can demand nothing more. You then outline to your child certain rules that he or she must follow that will help prevent the child from breaking another window and that the child will have to go without an allowance for a period of time. While this will not be easy for the child, it will be possible. You have set a standard that is achievable by your child and have been able to extend mercy without robbing justice.

This is the role that Jesus Christ took upon himself. He paid the price of our sins, something we could not do on our own and still hope to be able to live with God again, and gave us His requirements to follow, which makes it possible to return to God's presence. This is known as the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The central doctrine of the gospel is what is known as the atonement (Romans 5:11). This means the reconciliation of God and humankind as accomplished through the life, suffering, and death of Jesus Christ. In some way that is incomprehensible to us, Jesus paid the price of our sins while in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42) and during his crucifixion at Golgotha (Matthew 27; Mark 15; John 19).

The world needs a Savior because we all fall short of holiness due to our sins. This prevents us from being able to return to God's presence and live with Him forever. Jesus Christ is the Savior because he paid the price of our sins and gave us His gospel which if followed will allow us to live with God forever. This is the reason why prophets had long foretold of the coming of the Savior. This is the reason why we reverence and remember His birth still today.
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. John 3:16-17
I am so thankful for the Savior of the World, my personal Savior, even the Lord Jesus Christ. I love Him and seek to keep His commandments. The price He has paid for my sins is unimaginable. I echo the words of Isaiah and reverently marvel, for truly unto us a Son was given.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

The First Vision

In the previous posts I have attempted to explain the circumstances and condition of the human family as a whole that led to the need for a restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. I have referenced the restoration as a singular thing, indeed as the knowledge of God being returned to the earth. However, the fact is that the restoration is not a singular event, but a collection of countless revelations, visions, visitations and teachings that when combined restore the true gospel of Jesus Christ. We are in actuality still in the midst of the restoration.

What I will write about in this post is not the restoration, but merely the first part in the myriad important truths that had long been lost but were beginning to be restored. This post will help explain how the restoration began and that there was much, much more to come. The fact that not all things were restored at once and that it has been a process accords with the scriptures. Isaiah and later Paul each spoke of the necessity to have the appropriate amount of truth be revealed at the proper time.
Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breast. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little. Isaiah 28:9-10

But God hath revealed them unto us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God. For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned...And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able. 1 Corinthians 2:10-14, 3:1-2
The principle or nugget of divine knowledge taught in these scriptures is that God will teach us a little more and a little more as we are prepared to understand. The analogy used is of a baby being fed milk for a time and being weaned to more complex foods like meat. Everyone can understand this. It's not that God couldn't give us everything at once, He is the Almighty. But in His wisdom and love He gives us what we can handle before He gives us more. You can't understand algebra and calculus before you understand basic numbers.

It is my hope that you have understood that God's knowledge comes from Him directly through revelation to authorized servants called prophets. I hope that you have recognized that due to wickedness periods of apostasy have occurred throughout time. And I hope that you have seen that new periods of time when prophets have been authorized and revelation has been given have constituted a dispensation, or a restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ being taught again on the earth. And it is my hope to share with you today knowledge of a new dispensation and a restoration of the true gospel that has and is occurring in our modern day.

On December 23, 1805 in the state of Vermont in the United States of America an ordinary boy was born to ordinary parents Joseph Smith Senior and Lucy Mack Smith. The boy was Joseph Smith Junior, their third son and third of nine total children. There is nothing especially noteworthy of this family or this boy as he was growing up. The Smiths were a hard-working, honest and God-fearing family. The Smiths, like most people of that day, made their living through farming. After successive crop failures in Vermont, the Smiths moved to Palmyra in upstate New York. After four years in the Palmyra Village, the Smiths saved enough to move to their own farm on the outskirts of Palmyra, in the township of Manchester. It is at this point that I will quote from the history written by Joseph Smith Jr.
Some time in the second year after our removal to Manchester, there was in the place where we lived an unusual excitement on the subject of religion. It commenced with the Methodists, but soon became general among all the sects in that region of country. Indeed, the whole district of country seemed affected by it, and great multitudes united themselves to the different religious parties, which created no small stir and division amongst the people, some crying, “Lo, here!” and others, “Lo, there!” Some were contending for the Methodist faith, some for the Presbyterian, and some for the Baptist.

For, notwithstanding the great love which the converts to these different faiths expressed at the time of their conversion, and the great zeal manifested by the respective clergy, who were active in getting up and promoting this extraordinary scene of religious feeling, in order to have everybody converted, as they were pleased to call it, let them join what sect they pleased; yet when the converts began to file off, some to one party and some to another, it was seen that the seemingly good feelings of both the priests and the converts were more pretended than real; for a scene of great confusion and bad feeling ensued—priest contending against priest, and convert against convert; so that all their good feelings one for another, if they ever had any, were entirely lost in a strife of words and a contest about opinions.

I was at this time in my fifteenth year. My father’s family was proselyted to the Presbyterian faith, and four of them joined that church, namely, my mother, Lucy; my brothers Hyrum and Samuel Harrison; and my sister Sophronia.

During this time of great excitement my mind was called up to serious reflection and great uneasiness; but though my feelings were deep and often poignant, still I kept myself aloof from all these parties, though I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit. In process of time my mind became somewhat partial to the Methodist sect, and I felt some desire to be united with them; but so great were the confusion and strife among the different denominations, that it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong. Joseph Smith History 1:5-8
Joseph writes that the denominations, from Presbyterian to Baptist to Methodist, were decidedly against one another. He said that each church sought to point out the errors of the other and with zeal try to establish their own tenets as correct. Joseph continued as follows:
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If any one of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know it?

While I was laboring under the extreme difficulties caused by the contests of these parties of religionists, I was one day reading the Epistle of James, first chapter and fifth verse, which reads: If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

Never did any passage of scripture come with more power to the heart of man than this did at this time to mine. It seemed to enter with great force into every feeling of my heart. I reflected on it again and again, knowing that if any person needed wisdom from God, I did; for how to act I did not know, and unless I could get more wisdom than I then had, I would never know; for the teachers of religion of the different sects understood the same passages of scripture so differently as to destroy all confidence in settling the question by an appeal to the Bible.

At length I came to the conclusion that I must either remain in darkness and confusion, or else I must do as James directs, that is, ask of God. I at length came to the determination to “ask of God,” concluding that if he gave wisdom to them that lacked wisdom, and would give liberally, and not upbraid, I might venture. Joseph Smith History 1:10-13
As I said before, what follows is but the first of countless revelations and miracles that have been poured out upon the human family since the early 1800's. As you read, I would encourage you to pay attention to the feelings of your heart. As Paul admonished, the things of God cannot be understood through the words that man speaks, but only through the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost's function to testify or confirm to us of the truthfulness of things, primarily and especially the things of God. The Holy Ghost does this through the feelings that we feel. These feelings are positive and uplifting. Paul described some of the fruits of the Spirit or Holy Ghost to the Galatians.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance...Galatians 5:22-23
If, as you continue reading, you feel these types of positive feelings or if you have been feeling them as you have been reading these posts, know that it is the Holy Ghost teaching you that these things are true. I have felt the Holy Ghost while reading these words from Joseph Smith. I have felt unspeakable joy and peace. It is through these feelings that I can write and say without hesitation that I know, not just believe, but know what you are about to read really happened. Remarkable as it will sound, and as seemingly unbelievable it may be to imagine, because of the Holy Ghost and the testimony it has borne within me I can only picture the things you are about to read unfolding exactly as Joseph Smith describes. Here are his words.
So, in accordance with this, my determination to ask of God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt. It was on the morning of a beautiful, clear day, early in the spring of eighteen hundred and twenty. It was the first time in my life that I had made such an attempt, for amidst all my anxieties I had never as yet made the attempt to pray vocally.

After I had retired to the place where I had previously designed to go, having looked around me, and finding myself alone, I kneeled down and began to offer up the desires of my heart to God. I had scarcely done so, when immediately I was seized upon by some power which entirely overcame me, and had such an astonishing influence over me as to bind my tongue so that I could not speak. Thick darkness gathered around me, and it seemed to me for a time as if I were doomed to sudden destruction.

But, exerting all my powers to call upon God to deliver me out of the power of this enemy which had seized upon me, and at the very moment when I was ready to sink into despair and abandon myself to destruction—not to an imaginary ruin, but to the power of some actual being from the unseen world, who had such marvelous power as I had never before felt in any being—just at this moment of great alarm, I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me.

It no sooner appeared than I found myself delivered from the enemy which held me bound. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!

My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong)—and which I should join.

I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: “they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.”

He again forbade me to join with any of them; and many other things did he say unto me, which I cannot write at this time. When I came to myself again, I found myself lying on my back, looking up into heaven. When the light had departed, I had no strength; but soon recovering in some degree, I went home. And as I leaned up to the fireplace, mother inquired what the matter was. I replied, “Never mind, all is well—I am well enough off.” I then said to my mother, “I have learned for myself that Presbyterianism is not true.” It seems as though the adversary was aware, at a very early period of my life, that I was destined to prove a disturber and an annoyer of his kingdom; else why should the powers of darkness combine against me? Why the opposition and persecution that arose against me, almost in my infancy? Joseph Smith History 1:14-20
Joseph Smith saw and spoke with God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. It wasn't through this experience that Joseph suddenly became a prophet. This experience is known as the First Vision because it was just that, the first of several experiences that followed. It was through this and the experiences that followed that Joseph became a prophet. Although it wasn't through this experience alone that Joseph became a prophet, nevertheless Joseph Smith did become a prophet. And the only reason why that is even important is because all Joseph Smith and any other prophet of God ever did was teach people of Jesus Christ and His gospel. That's what prophets do. They testify of Jesus Christ and His divinity.

Finally, at long last, after over a thousand years of darkness once again a chosen prophet of God has been called to teach the human family of the divine plan of salvation through the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Prelude to The Restoration

"Restitution" and "Restoration", two words commonly found in today's vernacular. We typically connote restitution with the obligation to repay someone after something of value has been taken away, particularly in a criminal sense. For example, if a thief has been found guilty, a typical sentence might include not only time in prison but the thief must also pay restitution, or the return of that which was taken or the return of something equivalent.

Restoration lends itself to a more positive connotation. Its meaning is to bring back to an original state. Unlike restitution, the use of restoration is more commonly used in a positive frame of reference. Restorative dentistry, for example, is repairing a lost tooth or a cavity with dentures, crowns or fillings. Or perhaps the restoration of an old home or an old painting. Careful work is done to try to bring the old home or painting back to its original glory.

The following is not an exhaustive list, but note the interchangeability in the following definitions:
RESTITUTION: Restoration to the former or original state or position. Source

RESTORATION: A return of something to a former, original, normal, or unimpaired condition. Restitution of something taken away or lost. Source
As outlined in previous posts, Jesus Christ has established His gospel throughout time. And each time after its establishment, it has been taken away through the disobedience of the inhabitants of earth, also known as apostasy. Each period of apostasy has been followed by a restitution or a restoration of the gospel; a period of time when the true, original gospel of Jesus Christ is reestablished through revelation to prophets. Each period of time when the true gospel is found on the earth and an authorized servant called of God to teach these truths is found on earth it is known as a dispensation.

We have already examined the prophecies concerning the Great Apostasy that occurred after the death of the apostles at the time of Christ. (November 16, 2009 post) But what the apostles and prophets also knew was that there would one day come another restitution of the gospel. In fact, a final restoration of the gospel and a final, or last, dispensation of the gospel.

Peter, the chief apostle, prophet, and leader of the church on the earth after the resurrection of Jesus Christ, admonished the people of Israel to look forward to a future time when Christ would come again and to be converted before that time comes.
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. Acts 3:19-21
The "times of refreshing" and the "times of restitution of all things" is referring to a future and new gospel dispensation. A time when the true gospel of Jesus Christ would be found on the earth following the Great Apostasy. The apostle Paul also declared to the church members, or saints, in Ephesus that there would be a future dispensation of the gospel. By a careful reading of these verses and chapter it is clear that Paul declares these things only after there was revelation to him.
Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him. Ephesians 1:8-10
After reading this verse, I would ask if all things have been gathered together in one? Have all things both in heaven and on earth been gathered together in one, even in Christ? One needs only turn on the local news to discover that the answer to these questions is a resounding "No." So we know that this "dispensation of the fulness of times" did not occur in the past. At the time of Paul it was a future period of time.

There will come a time when all things will be gathered together in Christ, and that will be at His Second Coming. What we then learn from this passage of scripture is that the Second Coming of Christ will occur during the dispensation of the fulness of times.

Not only New Testament prophets and apostles knew of this future dispensation of the fulness of times. A dispensation that would not fall into apostasy. The ancient prophet Daniel interpreted King Nebuchadnezzar's dream through revelation.
Then was the secret revealed unto Daniel in a night vision. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven...Daniel answered in the presence of the king, and said, The secret which the king hath demanded cannot the wise men, the astrologers, the magicians, the soothsayers, shew unto the king; But there is a God in heaven that revealeth secrets, and maketh known to the king Nebuchadnezzar what shall be in the latter days. Thy dream, and the visions of thy head upon thy bed, are these...This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king...And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. Daniel 2:19, 27-28, 36, 44-45
If the Great Apostasy happened, and I testify that it did, when then did God set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed? In other words, when was there a time when Jesus Christ's gospel and His church were never again taken away from the earth or when has the church never fallen into apostasy? This passage of scripture states that these things will come to pass in the "latter days." Or in other words, the period of time right before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

In order for the human family to be in the latter days, we must also be in the dispensation of the fulness of times. In order for the human family to be in a dispensation, we must have emerged from the great apostasy through the restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. In order to have had a restoration of the true gospel of Jesus Christ, there must have been an authorized servant called of God put here on the earth to reveal God's will. It's my conviction and witness that all of these things either have happened or are happening today. The Restoration will be our next topic.

Monday, November 16, 2009

"...except there come a falling away first..."

God has always called prophets, authorized by Him, to teach people on earth the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a pattern that God has always followed. While the pattern is always followed, it doesn't mean, however, that God has had a prophet on the earth at all times.

Whenever there is an authorized servant of God, a prophet, on the earth to oversee the instruction of people and the administration of gospel ordinances it is known as a dispensation. Meaning it is a period of time when a prophet is called to dispense the glorious truths of the gospel to earth's inhabitants.

God has given all of His children agency; the privilege and freedom to choose whatever they want and to receive the attached consequences, good or bad, of those choices. God sends prophets to teach what is correct and good so that people can exercise their agency and choose that which is good. However, because people have their agency, people also have chosen wickedly throughout time. They choose to reject the prophets, rebel against them and God, and in many instances ultimately choose to kill the prophets.

When individuals or large groups of people, including nations, reject God-revealed truths and abandon the prophets sent to teach them it is known as apostasy. Whether an individual chooses to reject the truth or is born and raised and taught false ideas by their parents, in either case one is living in apostasy.

The scriptures are replete with examples and references of apostasy. In the Old Testament we read of the apostasy of the nation of Israel. After Moses led the children of Israel, or the Israelite nation, out of the bondage of Pharaoh in Egypt the Lord offers them the same covenant and blessing that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) received.
These are the words of the covenant, which the Lord commanded Moses to make with the children of Israel...That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the Lord
thy God, and into his oath, which the Lord thy God maketh with thee this day: That he may establish thee to day for a people unto himself, and that he may be unto thee a God, as he hath said unto thee, and as he hath sworn unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Deuteronomy 29:1, 12-13

In the same covenant, the Lord warns Israel of what will happen if they choose to reject this covenant.
Lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turneth away this day from the Lord our God, to go and serve the gods of these nations; lest there should be among you a root that beareth gall and wormwood; And it come to pass when he heareth the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying, I shall have peace, though I walk in the imagination of mine heart, to add drunkenness to thirst: The Lord will not spare him, but then the anger of the Lord and his jealousy shall smoke against that man, and all the curses that are written in this book shall lie upon him, and the Lord shall blot out his name from under heaven. Deuteronomy 29:18-20

The words of Moses include the explanation of why these curses will have come upon Israel should they occur. It is because of the forsaking and rebellion against the Lord and His covenant that they will be cursed.
So that the generation to come of your children that shall rise up after you, and the stranger that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses which the Lord hath laid upon it...Even all nations shall say, Wherefore hath the Lord done thus unto this land? what meaneth the heat of this great anger? Then men shall say, because they have forsaken the covenant of the Lord God of their fathers, which he made with them when he brought them forth out of the land of Egypt: For they went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods whom they knew not, and whom he had not given unto them: And the anger of the Lord was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curses that are written in this book: Deuteronomy 29:22, 24-27

The book of Judges chronicles the later generations of the Israelites who had received the covenant of which Moses spoke. The Israelites had settled into the land of Canaan and were led by the prophet Joshua. But we read of their apostasy from the true ways of the Lord.
And the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that outlived Joshua, who had seen all the great works of the Lord, that he did for Israel. And Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old...And also all that generation were gathered unto their fathers: and there arose another generation after them, which knew not the Lord, nor yet the works which he had done for Israel. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and served Baalim: And they forsook the Lord God of their fathers, which brought them out of the land of Egypt, and followed other gods, of the gods of the people that were round about them, and bowed themselves unto them, and provoked the Lord to anger. And they forsook the Lord, and served Baal and Ashtaroth. Judges 2:7-8, 10-13

Again the scriptures illustrate the Israelite apostasy as they elaborate on the actions of the Israelite nation.
And the children of Israel dwelt among the Canaanites, Hittites, and Amorites, and Perizzites, and Hivites, and Jebusites: And they took their daughters to be their wives, and gave their daughters to their sons, and served their gods. And the children of Israel did evil in the sight of the Lord, and forgat the Lord their God, and served Baalim and the groves. Judges 3:5-7

God continued to reach out to the Israelite nation, sending them judges to try and bring them back into the way of the Lord. But it wasn't until a new prophet was called that Israel again emerged from the spiritual darkness of this period of apostasy. Samuel was the new prophet chosen by God.
And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the Lord with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the Lord, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the Lord only. 1 Samuel 7:3-4

Without divine guidance, an authorized servant of God receiving revelation, man is left to its own wisdom. No matter how sincerely a person may believe and practice their religion, if it is not founded in the divine gospel as revealed by God to His prophets it will not lead us on the correct course and is apostasy.

The pattern of divine guidance through prophets, followed by the rejection of their teaching and the apostasy of the people is repeated time and again in the scriptures. The prophet Isaiah spoke frequently of this.
Behold, the Lord maketh the earth empty, and maketh it waste, and turneth it upside down, and scattereth abroad the inhabitants thereof...The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinances, broken the everlasting covenant. Isaiah 24: 1, 4-5

As I said before, God always follows the pattern of providing authorized servants, but He has not always had prophets on the earth because of the wickedness of the people.
For the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep, and hath closed your eyes: the prophets and your rulers, the seers hath he covered...Wherefore the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour me, but have removed their heart far from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men. Isaiah 29:10, 13

The pattern of wickedness leading to apostasy continued throughout the Old Testament. When Jesus Christ was born and a new gospel dispensation commenced. He formally organized His church and called 12 apostles. The word apostle means "one sent forth." Apostles not only were prophets who received revelation (see Matthew 16:15-17 & Revelation 19:10) but were also called to be special witnesses of Christ's divinity and of His bodily resurrection from the dead (see Acts 1:22).

The Savior, Jesus Christ, set up His church with prophets and apostles guided by divine revelation. The apostle Paul made this clear in his epistle to the Ephesians.
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone. Ephesians 2:19-20

And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. Ephesians 4:11-14

Before Jesus was crucified, Christ promised Peter that he would receive the keys of the kingdom of heaven or the authority to act in the name of Christ on the earth. This consisted of not only the priesthood authority, but special duties that only select prophets were given. These special duties are known as keys. Here is the promise Jesus made.
And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 16:19

The fulfillment of this promise came to Peter, James, and John at the Mount of Transfiguration. For a complete accounting of this remarkable event, please see Matthew 17:1-13, Mark 9:2-13, and Luke 9:28-36. It was Christ's intention that the authority and power to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ would remain in the hands of His apostles after His death.

The Church of Jesus Christ did continue on for a number of years after the death of Jesus Christ. Matthias was called to fill the vacancy in the Twelve Apostles after the betrayal of Judas (see Acts 1:23-26). The apostles called others to serve with them in declaring the word of God (see Acts 6). Saul was chosen as an apostle and is known thereafter as Paul (see Acts 9 & 13). And missionary work is authorized to go to not only the Jews, but also to the Gentiles, or in other words the rest of the world (see Acts 10).

Yet even with so much early success, the Lord and the Apostles new that the church Christ set up and the authority to administer the gospel and its ordinances would be lost from the face of the earth. Even ancient prophets prophesied of the apostasy that would occur after the death and resurrection of Christ.
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord God, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it. Amos 8:11-12

Jesus taught His disciples of Jerusalem's impending destruction and of the apostasy that would follow.
And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many...For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Matthew 24:3-4, 24

Paul echoed the words of the Savior as he spoke to members of the church.
Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Acts 20:28-30

Paul prophesied of our day to his fellow saint Timothy concerning evidences of future apostasy.
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; Forbidding to marry and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. 1 Timothy 4:1-3

And later Paul said to Timothy:
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:3-4

The prophets, apostles and Jesus himself knew that there would still come another time when people would reject the gospel and the earth would fall into apostasy. They knew there would come a day when no authorized individuals would be found on the earth to administer the gospel and its ordinances such as baptism.

Perhaps the most glaring prophecy concerning this comes from an epistle that Paul wrote to the saints, or members of Christ's church, in Thessalonica. Paul writes concerning the timing of the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and is pleading with the saints to not be misled by teachings as though they were coming from the apostles. He states that there would first come a falling away from the truth before the Second Coming. Here are his words.
Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

The "falling away" that Paul spoke of is the loss of authorized servants of the Lord on the earth to teach the true gospel of Jesus Christ. This happened. The prophets and apostles were eventually killed or taken from the earth. This came about because people chose to reject the prophets and apostles and rebel against God. This brought about the long prophesied "famine of hearing the words of the Lord." This period of time began within approximately 100 years of the death of Jesus Christ. And it ended in the year 1820. Much of this time is known in history books as the "dark ages", for indeed without the true gospel of Jesus Christ found on the earth it was dark. This time is also known as the Great Apostasy.

Jesus Christ has always called prophets. Periods of apostasy have occurred all through human history. Jesus established his church on the earth, but it too fell into apostasy. These things did happen, but God has ushered in a new dispensation and we are living in it.