Episode 128: What Is the Restoration? with Patrick Q. Mason
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About the Interview:
Celebrating the two hundredth anniversary of the Restoration has proven to be one of the few highlights of 2020 for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In commemoration, the First Presidency and Twelve Apostles issued a Bicentennial Proclamation that boldly affirmed beliefs in a restored church, restored priesthood authority (including priesthood keys), restored revelation through living prophets, and a restored fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This declaration affirmed church leaders’ consistent message regarding the importance of past revelations and the Latter-day Saint Church’s future path.
President Russell M. Nelson and other apostles have repeatedly reminded members of the church that God’s work of restoration began with Joseph Smith, but it didn’t end with him. We believe in an “ongoing Restoration”—an organic, dynamic process by which God continues to breathe life into both the church and the world not just yesterday but today and tomorrow and always. As Latter-day Saints, we hold it as an article of faith that God has much work yet to do, and many things yet to say, in the gradual unfolding of his kingdom in these modern times.
There are indeed many things that needed restoration: the fulness of the gospel, the priesthood, the church, covenants, ordinances, spiritual gifts, and so forth. We call this whole package “the restoration of all things.” But I would suggest that God isn’t concerned with restoring “things,” no matter how important, so much as he is with using those things to restore what matters most.
And what is that? Nephi explained that the restoration of the various branches of Israel—the Jews, the scattered tribes, and the remnant of Lehi—would all be accomplished not just for their own sake but as part of something bigger. What could be more significant than the gathering of Israel? The work of salvation, reconciliation, and healing whereby God will “bring about the restoration of his people upon the earth.”
In other words, “the restoration of all things” is designed with one grand aim in mind: to restore God’s people—our Father and Mother’s children, their eternal family—to wholeness.
Those of us in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints aren’t the only ones called to restore God’s family to wholeness—the work is too big, as 0.2% of the world’s population, to do by ourselves. But we are called to do some very special things. We are called to lives of holiness—that through the gift of the Atonement the title “saint” becomes less aspirational and more actual each day.
We are called to extend that holiness beyond our personal lives into our communities, thereby working toward the establishment of God’s social ideal, which we call Zion. We are called to proclaim the name and gospel of Jesus to every corner of the world. We are called to seal together the whole human family, alive and dead, in one great web of mutuality.
But if we are to fulfill our mission, we cannot be content with restoring things, no matter how powerfully those things work in our lives and our world. We are called to restore God’s people. We do so in imitation of Jesus, who loves all humanity but whose heart beats in sympathy with the oppressed and marginalized children of God. When he first proclaimed his messiahship, he did so by quoting Isaiah, the great prophet of Israel’s scattering and restoration:
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.
The poor. The brokenhearted. The captives. The blind. The bruised. These are the people to whom the Messiah’s anointing is specially directed. Any restoration we claim to participate in as disciples of Jesus must therefore be primarily oriented toward those who have suffered on the margins of history and currently suffer on the margins of society.
Those who are despised, and rejected, scattered, and deemed “filthy.” Refugees and displaced persons. Immigrants. The poor. The homeless. Racial and sexual minorities. Those who suffer from disabilities or mental illness. Victims of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. It is toward these precious souls that our particular work of restoration must be focused, as we do our small part in bringing about the “restoration of his people upon the earth.”
This post has been adapted from Patrick Q. Mason, Restoration: God’s Call to the 21st-Century World (Meridian, ID: Faith Matters Publishing, 2020).
About Our Guest: Patrick Mason holds the Leonard J. Arrington Chair of Mormon History and Culture at Utah State University, where he is an associate professor of religious studies and history. Educated at Brigham Young University and the University of Notre Dame, Mason is a nationally recognized authority on Latter-day Saint history, theology, and culture. He is the author or editor of several books for both academic and LDS audiences, including Restoration: God’s Call to the 21st-Century World (Faith Matters, 2020); What Is Mormonism? A Student’s Introduction (Routledge, 2017); and Planted: Belief and Belonging in an Age of Doubt (Maxwell Institute/Deseret Book, 2015).
Restoration: God’s Call to the 21st Century World
 Matthew 17:11; Doctrine and Covenants 27:6, 86:10.
 2 Nephi 30:8. See also Doctrine and Covenants 84:2.
 Luke 4:18; see Isaiah 61:1.
 See Jacob 3:6-9.