Some articles about Mormons seem to suggest Mormons want their religion to be seen as being just like everyone else’s. The truth is…it isn’t true. If their religion was just like everyone else’s there would be no need for it. Any other church could do the job.
Some churches believe they have existed since the time of Christ. Some believe they are a part of a protestant movement which set out to fix things they believe were wrong with the existing church. Mormons are neither. They are part of the restoration tradition.
This means they teach they are the restoration of the original New Testament Church. To understand what that means, we have to notice that the Bible warns of a falling away of truth and authority. This really started even before Jesus’ apostles died. They spent a fair amount of time correcting false doctrine that arose because people didn’t really understand what they’d learned and put their own spin on it. In 2 Timothy, we learn all of Asia was lost to apostasy:
15 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)
Joseph B. Wirthlin wrote an insightful article explaining the connection between the apostasy and the restoration. He warned that Mormons don’t talk about this subject to offend others—but there is no other way to explain the need for a restoration.
“Before we can understand the importance of the Restoration, however, we must have a knowledge and understanding of what happened to the primitive Church after the death of our Savior. Both sacred and secular writ attest to the fact that there was a dissolution of the church that Jesus Christ had established. We speak of the Apostasy not as an attack on any church. We have no interest in tearing down or belittling any religious organization, but we must recognize and acknowledge the Apostasy because it leads irrevocably to the necessity of that which followed—the Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The early Apostles knew that the Church of Jesus Christ, established and conferred into their hands, would one day languish and disappear from the face of the earth. To the Thessalonians Paul wrote:
“Now we beseech you, brethren, …
“That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, … as that the day of Christ is at hand.
There is really no question that such an apostasy occurred, as it had in other times—although never before for such a long period of time. The existence of many different religions and denominations demonstrate without question that there is confusion over just what the Bible really does teach. The Bible is essential and divine, but it has been subjected to a variety of man-made circumstances. It was not written as a single volume, but was compiled at a later date. Several different versions of the Bible exist today and there are also hundreds of translations made for a variety of purposes. Various religions interpret scriptures in a variety of ways.
Because people are inclined to interpret scriptures to meet their own needs, God provided prophets from the very beginning. A prophet has the authority to speak for God and so, when disagreements arise, the prophet can settle them by helping us to understand what God wants us to know. He is the only person with the authority to speak for God.
Once the apostles were gone, however, no one had that authority, leaving churches to rely on the scriptures and their own ability to comprehend in order to figure out what confusing passages meant. They were also left to figure out what God would want them to do when new situations not covered in the Bible arose. Reformers tried to put things back on track, and paid terrible prices for their work. Mormons honor many of those early reformers, but none claimed to be prophets, and so they too were subject to their own understanding of the gospel. While many great truths remain, what was lost was authority.
Elder Wirthlin stated:
“President Monson said further of these great reformers, “Their contributions [were] many, their sacrifices great—but they did not restore the gospel of Jesus Christ.” 3 In the final analysis it was simply beyond the power of man to restore heavenly authority to the earth. Without heavenly approbation, no amount of prayer, no amount of study, no amount of piety could compel it.”
The gospel could only be restored by God, who would use a prophet to follow His instructions. The Bible tells us the true church must be built on a foundation of prophets:
7 Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets ( Amos 3:7).
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone (Ephesians 2:19-20).
32 And Judas and Silas, being prophets also themselves, exhorted the brethren with many words, and confirmed them. Acts 15:32
God didn’t protest what was being done—He restored what had been done in the primitive church. He restored the organization of the church as it originally existed and He restored the gift of prophets to the Earth.
You can see, then, that Mormons aren’t Protestants and don’t want to be. The church is needed because a complete restoration was needed. Mormons recognize that they are unique and they don’t want to blend in. They want people to understand what they really believe and they want to speak for themselves, but they don’t want to dissolve into other religions. They are the church of the restoration.
Watch as another Mormon leader discusses the restoration.