D&C 1 is the Lord’s inspired preface for his book of covenants and commandments. This section was received through revelation by the Prophet Joseph Smith and is an inspired introduction to the material inside the Doctrine and Covenants. Like any good introduction, this section begins by laying out the intended audience (the members of the Church and the whole world), explaining the need for the contents of the book (the spiritual state of the world), and describing the key reasons for the restoration. Starting in verse 17, the Lord reveals at least twenty reasons why it was necessary to have a restoration:
- To save the world from calamity
- “Wherefore, I the Lord, knowing the calamity which should come upon the inhabitants of the earth”
The restoration emerges out of an urgent need. God warns that the world is spiraling into catastrophe. Because the teachings of Jesus Christ have been abandoned or forgotten, there is great wickedness. Everyone is seeking idols after their own image. There is strife and anger. And ultimately there will be destruction. The restoration of God’s Church and Kingdom on the earth is a critical counter measure to prevent this destruction and desolation.
2) To fulfil prophecy
- “[A]ll this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets”
The restoration was foreseen long ago. Christ’s apostles knew that there would be a falling away from truth followed by a period of renewal and rebirth. They promised that the fullness would once again be restored. Their prophetic warnings and promises could not be left unfulfilled. The same is true for the Book of Mormon Prophets who saw our day with particular clarity.
(We sometimes assume that Peter or Paul knew precisely what would happen with the apostasy and the restoration. I rather suspect that they were given more general revelation concerning an apostasy and restoration. But regardless, their prophetic promises were inspired and were fulfilled by the restoration).
3) To empower everyone to speak with power and authority
- “But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;”
One of my favorite things about full-time missionary service when I served in Novosibirsk Russia was wearing a name tag which declared to the world that I was an Elder and a representative of Jesus Christ and his Church. It is remarkable that every male member of the Church can hold the priesthood of God, and every sister can similarly speak with power and authority in the name of Christ. This democratization of power and authority is one of the triumphs of the restoration. Revelatory power and spiritual gifts are not reserved for a select few. Instead, everyone is able to access that power and to speak in the name of God the Lord.
4) To teach about Jesus and Heavenly Father
- “But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world;”
Another way to read that same verse is that we are empowered to teach with power the nature God and of the Savior. The restoration was intended to bring greater understanding as to their nature and character. Through the restoration we know of the God who weeps with us and of the Savior who calls us his friends and fellow servants. We understand their perfect and infinite love so much better. And we are therefore able to teach and invite others to come to truly know them.
5) To bypass the wisdom of the word and to work through the meek and humble
- “The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones”
Just as Christ was born in a lowly stable in Bethlehem and recruited from the lowly and despised of society, so to was the Church restored through the meek and humble of the world. Joseph Smith was not learned but he had great wisdom that was far greater than the wisdom of the world. Eloquence is not a prerequisite to spiritual power. God wants to show us that the things that the world prioritized by way of power and prestige are not the same things that we ultimately prioritizes
6) To increase faith
- “That faith also might increase in the earth;”
Because Christ’s Church was restored to the earth, there has been an increase of faith in the earth. We live in a time of growing skepticism about religion and doubts about God. So it was vital that a restored Church be established on the earth to help us to have pure faith in God and Christ. One of the main ways that I see this manifest itself in my life is the Church’s focus on personal revelation and the need to seek spiritual conviction for myself. This kind of active faith is transformative and transformational.
7) To reveal the fullness of the gospel
- That the fullness of my gospel might be proclaimed
One thing that has really struck me in the past few years as I have listened to our inspired Prophet President Nelson is that the restoration is still ongoing. There is so much more that will continue to be revealed as the restoration unfolds. That promise of greater light and knowledge is deeply empowering. But we also can have confidence that God has revealed everything that we need to know for our exaltation and our eternal happiness.
8) To help us gain understanding
- “These commandments are of me, and were given unto my servants in their weakness, after the manner of their language, that they might come to understanding.”
The restoration and the many revelations and commandments that come from God are ultimately intended to help us develop wisdom and understanding. This is different than mere knowledge. The restoration rather is a call to action to apply the principles of faith into our lives.
9) To allow for missionary work to the whole world including to kings and rulers
- That the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers.
It is remarkable that these words were received in 1831 when the Church of Jesus Christ was in its infancy and had less than 1,000 members all contained in a small portion of the United States. But from the start the restoration was a global project that was intended to reach the whole world. When reading Saints Vol 1 and 2 I have been amazed again and again at how quickly the Church sent missionaries out to all part of the world. It is a message that is direct to everyone who will hearken to the will of God.
10) To (re)establish God’s eternal covenant
- “That mine everlasting covenant might be established;”
Covenants form a major part of the restoration project. Covenants provide divine promises and assurance which bind us to God and to our families and church community. At the time when this revelation was received, God was slowly restoring ordinances and covenants. Today we are blessed to be able to go to the temple and make sacred covenants and to enter into eternal relationships.
11) To establish the true and living church on the earth and to lay its foundations
- “And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased”
The Church is true because it contains authoritative priesthood authority and keys, and it is living because it is led by continuing revelation through a prophet. There are many other great Churches and incredible believers in God and Christ (or wonderful people who believe in none of these things). There are many great institutions on the earth that perform benevolent works or edify and uplift. But there is only one Church that contains God’s priesthood power and that is led by him through continuing revelation. That makes all of the difference.
12) To bring forward the Book of Mormon
- “And after having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., might have power to translate through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon.”
Restoring the Book of Mormon to the earth was a major goal of the restoration. The writers of the Book of Mormon knew that it would come forth in our day from the dust of the Earth. This book contains a pure and powerful witness of Christ and it is the keystone of our faith. God knew that we would need this powerful book for our day.
13) To empower people to have the companionship of the spirit
- “And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts.”
This verse speak of individuals losing light and the presence of the spirit. But the necessary corollary is that we can gain light and enjoy the presence of the spirit when we are repentant. One of the remarkable fruits of the restoration is that every member is able to enjoy the presence and companionship of the Holy Ghost. This is a gift that is available to anyone who is repentant and humble.
14) To prepare the world for Christ to come and rule on the earth.
- “And also the Lord shall have power over his saints, and shall reign in their midst, and shall come down in judgment upon Idumea, or the world.”
The ultimate goal of the restoration is to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ. I love how even though we do not know the exact date and time of Christ’s second coming, this concept places the agency on us to act. We are not to passively wait for Christ to come again. Instead, we are working hand in hand with God as co-laborers in this project of restoration and preparation.
15) To humble people and teach them to trust in God.
- “[T]hat man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh”
We must ultimately not rely on our own fleshly abilities and aptitudes but instead we must come to rely on God and trust in him. This is a humbling process and it is truly a challenge for each of us. We must learn to use our divine given skills and talents in the way that God would have us use them rather than in pursuit of our own selfish goals and desires. In the restored Church, we are pushed to learn to do this through our service in callings and also in our own personal family relationships. For me, nothing has taught me humility and pushed me to try to rely on God more than being a husband and a father. I daily encounter reminders of my own fallen and imperfect nature.
16) To inspire confidence that God speaks through Prophets and Apostles in our day
- “What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”
I have seen a lot of debate and discussion of the meaning of this verse lately. I read this verse as suggesting that God’s word will be fulfilled whether he speaks in his own voice or in the voice of his servants the Prophet and Apostles. This does not mean that every single thing that the Prophet says is exactly equal to the word of God. But the restoration of prophetic leadership is intended to give us confidence that God will speak to us through those that we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators, and that the promises that they extend to us from God will ultimately be fulfilled.
17) To encourage repentance
- “And inasmuch as they sinned they might be chastened, that they might repent”
The restoration is a call to shake off the chains of complacency and sin and to repent. From my own experience, it is easy to put off making needed spiritual changes and to rationalize away the things we are doing wrong. The restoration provides both a sense of urgency and a call to action. This comes through the promptings of the Holy Ghost, through the teachings of the Prophet and Apostles, , through our church experiences and callings, and many other ways.
18) To prove that God is no respecter of persons
- “For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know”
The restoration is universal and global. God wants us to know that he is no respecter of persons. While the Church began in North America, it is intended to be a global religious that does not know boundaries of race, ethnicity, or culture. We have a long way to go until we achieve that inclusive and diverse vision. But it is one that we are called to strive towards.
19) To warn that the second coming “speedily cometh”
- For I am no respecter of persons, and will that all men shall know that the day speedily cometh; the hour is not yet, but is nigh at hand, when peace shall be taken from the earth, and the devil shall have power over his own dominion.
Early church members were focused heavily on what they saw as an impending second coming. Several generations later, it can honestly be difficult to have that sense of purpose and focus. But the restoration is intended to point our attention towards that second coming. This is intended to further spur us to action and to urge us to avoid complacency.
20) To prove that all of God’s words shall be fulfilled
- “Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled,”
Finally, the restoration of the Gospel of Christ is intended to show us that God’s prophecies and promises will in fact be fulfilled. What began as a tiny church has indeed spread to fill the earth. We can therefore have confidence that God’s promises and prophecies in our own day will also be fulfilled. God’s word is true and faithful. All will be fulfilled in time. Sometimes it may not come in way that we expect or anticipate. But we can have confidence in God.