"A Biblical Defense of Mormonism: Into the Mind of a Former Latter-day Saint" chapter previews
What do Mormons Believe?
Perhaps you have heard of Mormons and wonder what we believe. Are we Christian? Of course! Mormons, or Latter- day Saints, believe that Jesus Christ is the Only Begotten Son of God. We believe that Jesus took upon himself flesh and lived a perfect life, which he gave freely so mankind could be free from sin and death. It is only through the atoning sacrifice of the Savior that anyone can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We also believe the Bible to be the word of God.
Certainly there are similarities between Latter-day Saints and other Christians, but what sets us apart? We believe Jesus established a church in New Testament times, which was built upon a foundation of prophets and apostles, he himself being the chief cornerstone. After Christ was crucified his apostles took the lead of the church because Jesus had bestowed upon them keys and authority to cast out demons, to heal the sick, and to receive revelation for the saints.
Problems frequently arose in the infant church, and the apostles would solve them. For example, several converted Jews began to teach that circumcision was still vital to salvation. The apostles were pivotal in teaching that circumcision was no longer necessary. Several letters in the New Testament correct false doctrines and practices which began to creep into the Church. And how did the apostles know so much? Certainly their knowledge did not come from the Old Testament alone. In Galatians, Paul reveals the source of his credibility. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:11-12). Paul claimed his knowledge came directly from the source of truth, which means Jesus continued to lead his Church through the apostles after his death.
We believe there was an apostasy, or that the church Christ established fell away and was lost. The apostles spoke of this frequently. In Thessalonica the saints (when Mormons use the word saints, we mean believers) began to think Christ could come any time, but the apostles assured them the day of Christ would not come until there had been a falling away first (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3). Even before the deaths of the apostles, apostasy began to sneak into the church.
There are accounts in the New Testament of this falling away in different parts of the world. To the Corinthians Paul said, “For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it. For there must be heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you” (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). To the Galatians he proclaimed, “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7). To Timothy he wrote, “This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15).
Paul and Peter both give accounts of this dwindling of truth. In The Acts Paul warns about what will occur after his departure. The Acts 20:29-30 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. Peter speaks to the saints in 2 Peter 2:1-3 saying, But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgement now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
The problem came by way of persecution. All the apostles were killed, and after this tragedy there was no one to lead the church through revelation and priesthood keys. Luckily, the writings of the prophets and apostles remained, but like today no one could agree on what they said. Without revelation, keys, and authority from God to act in his name, the Church could not be lead with the Bible alone. Another error was the Nicene Creed, ordered by Emperor Constantine to unite all the religions into one in his empire. Although the new religion was called Christianity it had been created a certain way to appease everyone. Along with Christian beliefs there were Pagan ones. Even the nature of God was debated and voted on. Eventually, following the Protestant reformation, several Christian churches began to emerge, each trying their best to abide by their interpretation of the Bible.
In 1820 a 14-year-old boy named Joseph Smith became confused over which Christian church was right. He visited several, but noted that each claimed to be right, and yet, they taught opposing doctrines. As he studied the Bible he came to a verse in James 1:5 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.
Joseph Smith wrote in his history that never had a scripture come more powerfully to the heart of man than that one had to his at that time. With that in mind he ventured into a grove of trees and began to offer up the desires of his heart to God. Something marvelous happened to him that day, and he would later write of his experience with these words: I saw a pillar of light, exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me. 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!
That day Joseph Smith was visited by God the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. The Lord instructed him there, and when Joseph asked which Christian sect he should join he was answered that he must join none of them because none were the same Church Jesus had established. None of them had prophets, apostles, revelation, priesthood authority, or keys for leading the church. Joseph was later called of God as a prophet with the mission of restoring the Church of Christ as it had once existed. This church would come to be called The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is led today by a living prophet and twelve apostles, who continue to receive revelation from God. The priesthood has been returned to the church as well. It is just as it was, for it was a complete restoration.
But how can we really know if Joseph was called to be a prophet? This is an important question for anyone who is or isn’t LDS. If Joseph Smith was not a prophet, then the church he established is not true. If he was a prophet, then the kingdom of God has been established on earth. Jesus told his followers long ago how they could discern a true prophet from a false one.
Matthew 7:15-20 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so, every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit; neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.
A prophet is to be judged by his fruits, or what he brings forth. There were several things brought about by Joseph Smith; one such is The Book of Mormon. One night while praying in his room, Joseph was visited by an angel named Moroni, who told him there was an ancient record hidden in the hill Cumorah. When Joseph went there he discovered a box buried underground, which contained gold plates with unusual writing on them. After a certain time he was allowed to take the plates and translate them by the gift and power of God into what we now know as The Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon begins in ancient Jerusalem, around the time of Jeremiah. It was first written by a man named Nephi, whose family was commanded by God to flee from Jerusalem before it was invaded by Babylon. They traveled for several years in the wilderness, eventually arriving in the Americas by boat. Their descendants continued to write in Nephi’s record for centuries. Like the Bible, the plates contained several books written by prophets, but on the other side of the world. They recorded a miraculous event after the death of the Savior in Jerusalem. After he ascended into heaven he descended and visited his people in America, allowing them to feel his hands and feet, and teaching them what things he had done for them. Jesus had spoken of his disciples in the new world when he said: And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd (John 10:16).
Eventually, the people of the Americas grew wicked. Wars erupted among them, and Christ was forgotten. The truth was lost, and Moroni, the last Nephite prophet, buried the sacred records of Nephi and the prophets, which would remain hidden until Joseph Smith was led to them.
The Book of Mormon itself presents the best test to know whether or not Joseph was a prophet. If The Book of Mormon is true, then surely Joseph was a prophet endowed with the gift of translation. As the Bible says, we must test the spirits of all things. It is important to read The Book of Mormon, ponder its words, and pray to know whether it’s true. God will give an answer to anyone who sincerely asks Him. Before burying the plates, the prophet Moroni wrote a promise to future generations who would read the book. This promise is found in Moroni 10:3-5.
3 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.
4 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.
5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
Joseph Smith, in an article sent to the Chicago Democrat, listed thirteen basic doctrines held by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. These have come to be called the Articles of Faith and are as follows:
We believe in God, the Eternal Father, and in His Son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.
We believe that men will be punished for their own sins, and not for Adam’s transgression.
We believe that through the Atonement of Christ, all mankind may be saved, by obedience to the laws and ordinances of the Gospel.
We believe that a man must be called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof.
We believe that the first principals 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
We believe in the same organization that existed in the Primitive Church, namely, apostles, prophets, pastors, teachers, evangelists, and so forth.
We believe in the gift of tongues, prophecy, revelation, visions, healing, interpretation of tongues, and so forth.
We believe the Bible to be the word of God as far as it is translated correctly; we also believe the Book of Mormon to be the word of God.
We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.
We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.
We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.
Read My Responses To My Past Self Here
Joseph Smith: Prophet or Fraud?
The Bible tells us to examine a prophet’s fruits. What do we find when we examine Joseph’s?
Are Mormons Christian?
The ex-Mormon Apologist dives deeper into what makes someone a Christian and sheds new light on this oft-debated subject.
Was There a Great Apostasy?
Does the Elijah prophecy in Malachi point to a restoration? Or is it talking about something else entirely?
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The Great Apostasy
Perhaps the only thing more shocking than the appearance of the Father and Son to Joseph Smith was what they told him. Joseph asked which of the Christian sects he should join and was answered that he must join none of them, for they were all wrong. The Bible informs us that Jesus came and preached the gospel, and the apostles preached it after him. This leaves only one way for Joseph’s claim to be accurate. The truth had to be lost. There must have been a great apostasy as the LDS Church teaches.
I hope you understand that when I say church, I’m not referring to a body of believers, but an organized superstructure consisting of a head, officers, doctrines, and priesthood ordinances. I also believe church can mean a body of believers, but this isn’t the church that fell away. In other words, faithful believers in Christ never disappeared, but the organization Jesus and the apostles established did. So when I say there was an apostasy, I don’t mean there were no Christians, or that every Christian doctrine was corrupted, I just mean the original and correct organization was lost.
Elijah Must First Come
In Matthew 17 Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up the Mount of Transfiguration. At its top they see Moses and Elijah and hear God’s voice, proclaiming Jesus is His Son. On the way down the disciples ask the Master a question, “Why then say the scribes that Elias must first come?” Elias is the Greek form of the name Elijah. This question is in reference to the final prophecy of the Old Testament in Malachi 4:5-6 which states: Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to the fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.
The Jews were under the mistaken impression that the Messiah would only come once and promptly deliver them from Rome. So they were looking for Christ to come, but they also seemed to be looking for Elijah to come first. This is evident in the first chapter of the gospel of John. When John the Baptist confesses he is not Christ, he is immediately asked, “What then, art thou Elias? Art thou that prophet?” (John 1:21). In fact, Jews to this day believe Elijah will arrive as a sign of the Messiah’s coming. From a Christian perspective, and with the knowledge we gain in the New Testament, we understand there will be a second coming of the Messiah, which is often referred to as the great and dreadful day of the Lord in scripture. So the prophecy about Elijah’s coming in Malachi could safely be translated: Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the [second coming] of the Lord.
Let’s look at the Savior’s answer to his disciples’ inquiry.In Matthew 17:11 he says, Elias truly shall first come,and restore all things.“ By speaking in the future tense, Christ clarifies that the prophecy had yet to be fulfilled. He also explains that not only would Elijah come, he would restore all things. At the time Jesus said this he was on the earth, his apostles were called, and the gospel was being preached; so for all things to be restored, all things had to first be lost.
This is consistent with 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 where Paul writes: 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. Latter-day Saints believe the falling away Paul spoke of was an impending church-wide apostasy which would require a restoration through Elijah the prophet.
The Church’s Foundation
But doesn’t Christ’s promise that the gates of hell would not prevail against the church negate any possibility of an apostasy?
In Matthew 16:13-19 we read: When Jesus came into the coasts of Ceasara Phillipi, he asked his disciples saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am? And they said, Some say that thou are John the Baptist, some Elias, and others Jeremias or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom do ye say that I am? And Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou Simon Bar-jona, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 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.
Obviously, a lot is said in this passage, so we don’t have a simple promise saying the Church is invulnerable to the gates of hell. Immediately before the promise, Jesus mentions that the Church was built upon a rock, which implies that his promise hinged on the Church remaining steadfastly on that rock. After all, the wise man built his house upon a rock, and when the rain beat upon the house it was stable because it was built on a rock, right? But the foolish man didn’t build his house on a rock, and it fell when the floods came. The same principle applied to the New Testament Church, without a strong foundation it was susceptible to collapse.
So what exactly is the foundational rock Jesus spoke of? Most believe the rock is Jesus himself. To this I would give an adamant yes! I absolutely believe that. Others have felt that Peter was the rock because he was called Cephas, which is interpreted: a stone. I agree with that too, since Peter was the head of the apostles and the Church after Christ was resurrected. But I would say it’s even more than that. Latter-day Saints believe the foundation of Christ’s Church consists of: Christ, prophets and apostles, revelation, and priesthood authority and keys.
In Ephesians 2:19-20 Paul writes: And now ye are no more foreigners and strangers 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 cornerstone. From this verse we can infer that Christ and his redeeming grace are the central and most important aspects of the gospel, but he does not make up the entire foundation. So why are apostles and prophets included in the foundation of the Church? Whenever there was a dispute in the Church, the problem was brought to the apostles, and their answers became doctrine. For example, The Acts chapter 15 tells us some new Christians began to say circumcision was still essential for salvation, but the matter was brought to the apostles who declared it unnecessary. The apostles were also largely responsible for the writing of the New Testament; so clearly they were privileged to know God’s will for the Church and had the authority to implement it.
Revelation, or direct communication from God to man, is an essential part of the Savior’s promise to Peter; when Peter confessed Christ was the Son of God, Jesus said, “Flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” Peter knew who Christ was because he had received it directly from the Father. Jesus then said, “Upon this rock I will build my Church.” As long as the early Church could receive revelation as one body, through the prophets and apostles, it could continue to prosper.
Since the beginning of time the Lord has used a pattern of revelation, which He always gave to his servants the prophets (Amos 3:7), and in turn it was their mission to spread the message to His people (Ezekiel 3:17). So in the New Testament when Jesus established his Church and set apostles at its head that were able to receive revelation, it proved that he is a changeless being.
Revelation is also a very practical way to lead the Church; The Acts chapter 10 is a great example of how the early Church functioned. A man named Cornelius, a gentile, was visited by an angel and told to seek out Peter, and informed that Peter would tell him what to do. So Cornelius sent three men to Joppa where Peter was staying. Before Peter could be confronted with the situation, and forced to make a decision based on finite reasoning, he was shown a vision in which a great sheet fell before him, which was inhabited by animals deemed unclean and inedible by the Law of Moses. A voice then spoke to him saying, “Rise Peter, kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so Lord, for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” The voice spoke to him again, “What the Lord hath cleansed, that call not thou common.” This vision was given to Peter so he might know not to call any man common or unclean because it was time for the gospel to go to the gentiles. Since Christ personally instructed the apostles to preach only to the Jews (Matthew 10:5-6), without indicating an expiration date for the command, it’s impossible to think Peter could have come to this conclusion without revelation.
It’s also quite telling that the Gentile emergence into Christianity happened through Peter. Why didn’t the angel tell Cornelius to start his own Christian denomination? It’s because apostles were a major part of the Church’s foundation! Two other essential components of the Church’s rock were priesthood authority and keys, which were held by the apostles and enabled the performance of ordinances of salvation (see my chapter on baptism). Matthew chapter 10 tells us that when Jesus called his twelve apostles he gave them authority to cast out devils and to heal all kinds of illness and disease. In John 15:16 the Lord told the apostles, “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.” In Matthew 16 Christ promised to give Peter the keys to the kingdom of heaven.
The apostles didn’t take it upon themselves to lead the Church; they were chosen by Christ and given the authority. They had the keys to heaven: the keys to act in God’s name, to receive revelation in behalf of the Church, and to perform saving ordinances which were not only binding on earth, but in heaven. And so it’s no wonder there was a concerted effort to keep the sanctity of the twelve in the New Testament. After Judas took his life, there were only eleven apostles. In the first chapter of The Acts, Peter rehearses the fall of Judas to the other apostles and says, “It is written in the book of Psalms: Let his habitation be desolate and let no man dwell therein, and his bishopric let another take” (The Acts 1:20). Under the direction of the Bible, the apostles prayerfully chose who would replace Judas as an apostle. In verse 26 we read: And they gave forth their lots; and the lot fell upon Matthias; and he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
Not long after this, James was martyred. Again the apostles numbered eleven, and again a replacement was appointed. The Lord called Paul to be an apostle. Unfortunately, the early Church suffered heavy persecution and the twelve were killed for their testimonies. Along with the apostles went the keys to the kingdom of heaven, and the only thing left was the one thing that couldn’t be taken away: the Cornerstone. The great apostasy was ushered in; it was a time the Lord alluded to in John 9:4 when he said, “I must work the works of him who sent me, while it is day. The night cometh when no man can work.”
Replacement vs. Evolution
Although Judas and James were replaced with new apostles, most Christians have embraced a theology of evolution: which is for one reason or another, the Church no longer needs prophets and apostles. Some of these reasons include that the apostles were only intended as eyewitnesses of Christ, that they became obsolete after the crucifixion or after the Bible was compiled, or that we know so much nowadays that apostles are no longer necessary. In any case, living prophets and apostles are often viewed as training wheels: a temporary crutch to get things started.
Latter-day Saints believe in replacement: that is, prophets and apostles aren’t the training wheels to a bike, they’re the tires. And when a tire goes flat, it must be fixed or replaced; otherwise the vehicle won’t function properly. To us, saying we don’t need apostles and prophets, is like saying, “I’m so healthy I don’t need legs anymore.”
Jesus was also a proponent of replacement. In Matthew 9:16-17 he says, “No man putteth a piece of new cloth unto an old garment, for that which is put in to fill it up taketh from the garment, and the rent is made worse. Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved.” When Israel apostatized, Christ came and started a new Church. When James died, God didn’t allow the Church leadership to evolve to church fathers, pastors, or a pope, He called a new apostle.
I admit there’s an evolution taking place in our understanding and circumstances, but it’s this very evolution that makes Church-wide revelation so imperative! Whereas the Bible is static, and doesn’t necessarily expound on modern problems, revelation is dynamic and can accurately answer new questions.
The reason for prophets, apostles, and other Church officers is given in Ephesians 4:11-14 which reads: And [Christ] 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 fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.
If the work of the ministry must go on, then so to must the priesthood keys which govern the work. If we still require guidance so we’re not deceived by false doctrines then revelation to the Church as a whole is essential. And if we still haven’t come in the unity of the faith and been perfected, we still need prophets and apostles.
The Restoration of all Things
It’s hard to read the beginning of the New Testament without getting excited. As Matthew expounds on Christ’s life, he reflects on Old Testament prophecies again and again, often repeating the phrase: all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet. Matthew wasn’t making some philosophical argument that Christianity was true, he was writing about events that were actually happening! He was writing about prophecy being fulfilled! This automatically elevates Christianity above Judaism, since a religion with fulfilled prophecies is always more substantiated than a religion with unfulfilled prophecies. In much the same way, the story of the restoration is empowered by the fulfillment of prophecies.
The Bible prophesies of a great apostasy where revelation and priesthood keys are lost: in 2 Timothy 4:3-4 Paul forewarns, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts they shall heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” In Amos 8:11-12, Amos prophesies, “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.” And in John 9, Christ says the night is coming when no man can work, which symbolizes a lack of light from revelation and an absence of authority to work in the ministry.
Malachi’s prophecy, along with Jesus’ foretelling that Elijah would come and restore all things, has also been fulfilled. On April 3, 1836 in the Kirtland temple, in the presence of Joseph Smith the prophet and Oliver Cowdery, Elijah the prophet returned. This is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 110:13-16 which states: After this vision had closed, another great and glorious vision burst upon us; for Elijah the prophet, who was taken to heaven without tasting death, stood before us and said: Behold, the time has fully come, which was spoken of by the mouth of Malachi-testifying that he [Elijah] should be sent, before the great and dreadful day of the Lord come- To turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the children to the fathers, lest the whole earth be smitten with a curse- Therefore, the keys of this dispensation are committed into your hands; and by this ye may know that the great and dreadful day of the Lord is near, even at the doors.
The Bible even prophesies of when the restoration would take place! In the second chapter of Daniel, King Nebuchadnezzar has a vision which Daniel the prophet vividly describes. In verses 31-35 he says, “Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee; and the form thereof was terrible. This image’s head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.”
In the verses that follow, Daniel interprets the dream. The great image King Nebuchadnezzar saw was a timeline, with the head representing the present and the lower parts symbolizing the distant future. The different body parts, made up of diverse metals, were nations which would hold unrivaled power during their tenure. The image’s two legs of iron most likely represented the Roman Empire, since it was split in two kingdoms. The toes represented a time when many nations would share power. Daniel finishes his interpretation in Daniel 2:44-45 which reads: 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 break 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.
To Latter-day Saints it’s significant that the stone representing God’s kingdom fell on the image’s feet in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision. The kingdom shown in the vision could not have been the New Testament Church, since it was founded during the reign of the Roman Empire. It’s also unlikely that the stone would represent the second coming, the millennial reign, or anything thereafter. Let me explain: according to the timeline of the vision, God’s kingdom only had a narrow window to be established. It would come at a time when kings were in power, and lately monarchy has not been on the rise. Consider this: the LDS Church was founded in 1830. The French monarchy fell for the final time in 1870, the Portuguese monarchy ended in 1910, the Chinese monarchy ended in 1912 and after World War I the Russian and German monarchies fell. As time has passed, more and more monarchies have ended, making Nebuchadnezzar’s vision less and less likely to occur anytime in the future.
The LDS Church is the stone cut out of the mountain without hands, destined to fill the whole earth. The apostasy, the restoration of the Church, and the return of Elijah have all happened, as Matthew would say, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord, through the prophets.