Editor's note: Our bi-weekly Friday column, “Found in the footnotes,” explores some of the footnotes from remarks given by General Authorities and General Officers of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
In the four chapters of this week’s Come, Follow Me reading, Alma 39–42, you may notice one word being used repeatedly by Alma as he counsels with his son Corianton—and it’s a popular word this year as we celebrate the bicentennial anniversary of the First Vision.
The word restore and its variants, like restored and restoration, appear over 20 times in this week’s Come, Follow Me reading, but Alma isn’t describing what happened during Joseph Smith’s time.
In Elder Gerrit W. Gong’s April 2020 general conference talk, “Hosanna and Hallelujah—The Living Jesus Christ: The Heart of Restoration and Easter,” he notes two restorations in the Book of Mormon that describe the “power and resurrection of Christ” (Alma 41:2):
First, resurrection includes physical restoration of our “proper and perfect frame”; “every limb and joint,” “even a hair of the head shall not be lost” (Alma 40:23). This promise gives hope to those who have lost limbs; those who have lost ability to see, hear, or walk; or those thought lost to relentless disease, mental illness, or other diminished capacity. He finds us. He makes us whole.
A second promise of Easter and our Lord’s Atonement is that, spiritually, “all things shall be restored to their proper order” (Alma 41:4). This spiritual restoration reflects our works and desires. Like bread upon the water, it restores “that which is good,” “righteous,” “just,” and “merciful” (Alma 41:13). No wonder the prophet Alma uses the word restore 22 times1 as he urges us to “deal justly, judge righteously, and do good continually” (Alma 41:14).
In the 34th footnote of his talk, Elder Gong shares that the use of the words restore, restored, and restoration emphasize both physical and spiritual restoration.
So why did the prophet Alma use the word restore so frequently in his counsel to his son Corianton? And why does it matter to us today?
Alma explains to his son “the meaning of the word restoration is to bring back again” (Alma 40:13). And just like Heavenly Father brought back the gospel through Joseph Smith and the First Vision, He also wants to bring us back to Him, through physical and spiritual restoration.
In April 2020 general conference, Bishop Gérald Caussé said, “The central message of the Book of Mormon is to restore the true knowledge of the essential role of Jesus Christ in the salvation and exaltation of mankind. This theme reverberates from the introductory page through the very last words of the last chapter.”
Through the Restoration of the gospel, we know more about the role of our Savior and how, through His Atonement, we can be restored to happiness, even if we make mistakes as Corianton did. Ultimately, through living the gospel, we are “restored to His presence” (Alma 42:23).
So, as we think about the Restoration of the gospel this year, I think we may also benefit from thinking about the truths restored through that gospel, including the truth that because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ we will be resurrected, experience a physical restoration, and also be forgiven of our sins so that we can be restored to happiness.
As we often hear, Joseph Smith's First Vision is foundational to the restored gospel: no Vision, no Restoration. It all starts there. If a major encounter between a fourteen-year-old boy and the Gods of the universe did not occur, then all that we teach and practice, all the good we strive to do in the name of Christian service, is vain and superficial—in the long run, it would have no saving significance for the children of God.
What receives much less attention, however, is what we learn from Joseph's encounter with God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. When we begin to explore the theological concepts discovered, the lessons derived, and the principles learned from the Vision, we move into the realm of doctrine—and doctrine has the power to save. I Saw a Pillar of Light explores the sacred saving truths from Joseph Smith's First Vision and is available now at DeseretBook.com.
1. Elder Gong's 34th footnote says, "The words restore, restored, restoration, or other variants appear 22 times in Alma 40:22–24 and in Alma 41, emphasizing both physical and spiritual restoration." Alma 42 also has three instances of the words restore and restored.