In the priesthood session of the April 2014 general conference, then-President Dieter F. Uchtdorf posed a question to listeners that I haven’t forgotten.
“Are you sleeping through the Restoration?” he asked. “Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. . . . The exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
Latter-day Saints and the elect who have not yet been gathered into this great fold have been called to participate in the completion of the Restoration.
The prophet Joseph Smith said: “Men and angels are to be coworkers in bringing to pass this great work, and Zion is to be prepared, even a new Jerusalem, for the elect that are to be gathered from the four quarters of the earth, and to be established an holy city, for the tabernacle of the Lord shall be with them” (History of the Church, 2:260).
How do we actively participate in this ongoing restoration of all things? How should we, in our individual lives, participate in this great work as “coworkers” of the angels? How do we build Zion? How do we not sleep through the Restoration?
First, we need to make and keep sacred covenants. This gives us access to the power of God and the keys of His priesthood that have already been restored. This responsibility to make and keep sacred covenants pertains—and I cannot emphasize this enough—to both men and women. It is through covenants that we access the power of God.
President Wilford Woodruff taught: “Every man or woman that has ever entered into the church of God and been baptized for the remission of sins has a right to revelation, a right to the Spirit of God, to assist them in their labors, in their administrations to their children, in counseling their children and those over whom they are called upon to preside. The Holy Ghost is not restricted to men, nor to apostles or prophets; it belongs to every faithful man and woman, and to every child who is old enough to receive the gospel of Christ.”3
Making and keeping covenants is our central responsibility in participating in the Restoration.
Second, we need to renew our covenants so we can be clean vessels and pure instruments in God’s hands. In the October 2013 General Conference, Carole Stevens, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, said that “We need the opportunity to renew our covenants each week as we partake of the sacrament. Latter-day prophets and apostles have taught that when we worthily partake of the sacrament, we can renew not only our baptismal covenant but ‘all covenants entered into with the Lord.’7. . . These priesthood ordinances and covenants provide access to the fulness of the blessings promised to us by God, which are made possible by the Savior’s Atonement. They arm sons and daughters of God with power, God’s power8.”
She continues, “Sons of God, do you know who you are? Do you know what you have? Are you worthy to exercise the priesthood and receive the power and blessings of the priesthood? Do you embrace your roles and responsibilities to strengthen homes as fathers, grandfathers, sons, brothers, and uncles? Do you show respect for women, womanhood, and motherhood?
“Daughters of God, do we know who we are? Do we know what we have? Are we worthy to receive the power and blessings of the priesthood? Do we receive the gifts given to us with gratitude, grace, and dignity? Do we embrace our roles and responsibilities to strengthen homes as mothers, grandmothers, daughters, sisters, and aunts? Do we show respect for men, manhood, and fatherhood?”
By making and keeping covenants, and then renewing those covenants, we become clean vessels prepared to do the Lord’s will.
Third, we need to seek the power and authority of the priesthood. In particular, we should seek to receive and understand the gifts and responsibilities of our callings and our temple covenants—including both our obligations to God and the power with which He endows us. Elder Ballard taught in a 2013 devotional at Brigham Young University: Those who have priesthood keys . . . literally make it possible for all who serve or labor faithfully under their direction to exercise priesthood authority and have access to priesthood power. All men and all women serve under the direction of those who have keys.”
When I think about the keys of the priesthood, I frequently think about what it means to magnify a calling. In Jacob 1:19, we read, “And we did magnify our office unto the Lord, taking upon us the responsibility, answering the sins of the people upon our own heads if we did not teach them the word of God with all diligence; wherefore, by laboring with our might their blood might not come upon our garments; otherwise their blood would come upon our garments, and we would not be found spotless at the last day.”
I think about this often. I think about times when, operating under the authority of priesthood keys, I have served others and been willing to take upon myself the responsibility of others’ choices if I did not try with all my might to teach them the Lord’s ways. This weight was particularly heavy when I served as Young Women’s president in my ward. I could see things about each of the youth in my care that were viewed not with my physical eyes, but with my spiritual eyes. I could see strengths and struggles. I could see possible futures for them beyond the hopes, dreams, and challenges that they saw for themselves.
I have also watched my own husband and other righteous and willing servants in wards bow under the weight of the responsibilities that come with priesthood keys. I have only seen my husband cry a few times in our nearly 14 years of married life. I have seen him cry tears of joy at the births of each of our children. I have seen him cry tears of sorrow at the deaths of three of our children. And I have seen him cry as a member of the bishopric under the load of sorrows he could not discuss with me. But many of these opportunities to serve the Lord under the authority of the priesthood have frequently brought us to where we belong: on our knees, seeking the guidance of the Lord.
With the responsibility of these keys comes power and increased access to the Lord’s divine help. I experienced this divine help once while I was serving as a counselor in a stake Primary presidency. It was our custom to share a brief message with each Primary as we visited the wards in our stake. In one ward where it was my turn to deliver our message, I felt strongly impressed to tell the children that the Lord knows each of them by name. The Spirit told me to pay careful attention to the names of each child as they were called upon during music time and sharing time. I had never met any of these children, and I didn’t have pen or paper to write down their names. There were about 20 children in the room. I was intimidated (I don’t have a great memory for names) but I just let the Lord teach me the names of each child as I listened. When I stood up to speak, I delivered the Lord’s message—that He knows them each by name—and proceeded to point to each child and say his or her name from memory. I will never forget the surprise and awe on those children’s faces. It was a clear witness of the additional gifts that come with priesthood power and keys.
One place that we can and should look for support and power from God is the temple. Elder Ballard taught, “When men and women go to the temple, they are both endowed with the same power, which by definition is priesthood power,” he said. “The endowment is literally a gift of power. All who enter the house of the Lord officiate in the ordinances of the priesthood. This applies to men and women alike. Our Father in Heaven is generous with His power. All men and all women have access to this power for help in our own lives. All who have made sacred covenants with the Lord and who honor those covenants are eligible to receive personal revelation, to be blessed by the ministering of angels, to commune with God, to receive the fulness of the gospel, and, ultimately, to become heirs alongside Jesus Christ of all our Father has.”
The making and keeping of sacred covenants is central to our role in the ongoing restoration.
The fourth way we can participate in the Restoration is to actively bring it to pass. We do this by faithfully seeking answers to our own questions, fortifying our faith through personal revelation, and studying the words of the prophets. We do this by praying for our prophet, bishop, stake president, Relief Society president, and others who are caring for us and our families. We do this by understanding what doctrines, principles, ordinances, and events have yet to be unveiled in the future of God’s great work.
We can participate in this great work by focusing the righteous exercise of God’s power and authority to bring to pass His work and His glory: the immortality and eternal life of His sons and daughters (Moses 1:39). This great and grand purpose is accomplished by actively engaging in the care of some part of the Lord’s vineyard. Perfect the Saints. Proclaim the gospel. Redeem the dead. Care for the poor and needy. This is what we have been called to do. And as individuals, we will be guided and directed in how to use our own time, talents, and other blessings to bring together God’s purposes by being righteous vessels of His divine power. Seek and heed those promptings. In this way, we can participate in this, the Restoration—the last restoration before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.