The everlasting gospel is revealed or dispensed from heaven in various ages, periods, or dispensations. In each of these God speaks, angels minister among men, and the gift of the Holy Ghost is poured out upon the faithful. (Moses 5:58-59.) In each there are legal administrators who hold the higher priesthood, who preach the gospel, work miracles, and perform the ordinances of salvation so they will be binding on earth and in heaven. And in each there are special commissions and endowments that pertain to the age and period involved.
The dispensation of the fulness of times is the dispensation of the fulness of dispensations, it is the time or age of the fulness of times or ages. In other others, it is the dispensation of restoration, the one in which all things possessed and enjoyed in any past age have or shall be given again. This final great dispensation commenced in the Spring of 1820 with the appearance of the Father and the Son to Joseph Smith, to whom also the subsequent revelations came pursuant to which the Church and kingdom of God on earth was once again established. The keys or presiding authority over this final gospel dispensation rested with Peter, James, and John and were by them conferred upon Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in about June of 1829. Thereafter the Lord said that the gospel revealed through Joseph Smith was given "for the last times; and for the fulness of times, in the which," the Lord continued, "I will gather together in one all things, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth." (D. & C. 27:13; 128: 18-21; Mormon Doctrine, 2nd ed., pp. 200-202.)
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 492.)
Joseph Smith Commentary on Ephesians 1:9-10:
The work of the Lord in these last days is one of vast magnitude and almost beyond the comprehension of mortals. Its glories are past description and its grandeur unsurpassable. It has been the theme which has animated the bosom of prophets and righteous men from the creation of this world down through every succeeding generation to the present time. And it is truly the dispensation of the fulness of times, when all things which are in Christ Jesus, whether in heaven or on the earth, shall be gathered together in him, and when all things shall be restored, as spoken of by all the holy prophets since the world began. For in it will take place the glorious fulfillment of the promises made to the fathers, while the displays of the power of the Most High will be great, glorious, and sublime. . . .
Here, then, beloved brethren, is a work to engage in worthy of archangels—a work which will cast into the shade the things which have heretofore been accomplished, a work which kings and prophets and righteous men in former ages have sought, expected, and earnestly desired to see, but died without the sight. And well will it be for those who shall aid in carrying into effect the mighty operations of Jehovah.
Now the "purpose in himself" in the winding up scene of the last dispensation is that all things pertaining to that dispensation should be conducted precisely in accordance with the preceding dispensations. And again, God purposed in himself that there should not be an eternal fulness until every dispensation should be fulfilled and gathered together in one, and that all things whatsoever that should be gathered together in one in those dispensations, unto the same fulness and eternal glory, should be in Christ Jesus. Therefore, he set the ordinances to be the same for ever and ever and set Adam to watch over them, to reveal them from heaven to man or to send angels to reveal them. . . .
Paul perfectly understood the purpose of God in relation to his connection with man, and that glorious and perfect order which he established in himself whereby he sent forth power, revelations, and glory.
The dispensation of the fulness of times will bring to light the things that have been revealed in all former dispensations, also other things that have not been before revealed.
Truly, this is a day long to be remembered by the Saints of the last days, a day in which the God of heaven has begun to restore the ancient order of his kingdom unto his servants and his people, a day in which all things are concurring together to bring about the completion of the fulness of the gospel, a fulness of the dispensation of dispensations, even the fulness of times, a day in which God has begun to make manifest and set in order in his Church those things which have been, and those things which the ancient prophets and wise men desired to see but died without beholding it, a day in which those things begin to be made manifest which have been hid from before the foundations of the world, and which Jehovah has promised should be made known in his own due time unto his servants, to prepare the earth for the return of his glory, even a celestial glory, and a kingdom of priests and kings to God and the Lamb forever, on Mount Zion, or the hundred and forty and four thousand whom John the Revelator saw, which should come to pass in the restitution of all things.
The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age. It is a theme upon which prophets, priests, and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight. They have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live, and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung, and written, and prophesied of this our day. But they died without the sight. We are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the latter-day glory. It is left for us to see, participate in, and help to roll forward the latter-day glory, "the dispensation of the fulness of times," when God will "gather together all things that are in heaven, and all things that are upon the earth, even in one," when the Saints of God will be gathered in, one from every nation, and kindred, and people, and tongue, when the Jews will be gathered together into one, and the wicked will also be gathered together to be destroyed, as spoken of by the prophets. The Spirit of God will also dwell with his people and be withdrawn from the rest of the nations. And all things, whether in heaven or on earth, will be in one, even in Christ.
The heavenly priesthood will unite with the earthly to bring about those great purposes. And whilst we are thus united in the one common cause to roll forth the kingdom of God, the heavenly priesthood are not idle spectators. The Spirit of God will be showered down from above; it will dwell in our midst. The blessings of the Most High will rest upon our tabernacles, and our name will be handed down to future ages. Our children will rise up and call us blessed, and generations yet unborn will dwell with peculiar delight upon the scenes that we have passed through, the privations that we have endured, the untiring zeal that we have manifested, the insurmountable difficulties that we have overcome in laying the foundation of a work that brought about the glory and blessings which they will realize, a work that God and angels have contemplated with delight for generations past, that fired the souls of the ancient patriarchs and prophets, a work that is destined to bring about the destruction of the powers of darkness, the renovation of the earth, the glory of God, and the salvation of the human family.
It is necessary in the ushering in of the dispensation of the fulness of times, which dispensation is now beginning to usher in, that a whole and complete and perfect union, and welding together of dispensations, and keys, and powers, and glories should take place, and be revealed from the days of Adam even to the present time. And not only this, but those things which never have been revealed from the foundation of the world, but have been kept hid from the wise and prudent, shall be revealed unto babes and sucklings in this, the dispensation of the fulness of times.
Now, what do we hear in the gospel which we have received? A voice of gladness! A voice of mercy from heaven; and a voice of truth out of the earth. . . . The voice of Peter, James, and John in the wilderness between Harmony, Susquehanna county, and Colesville, Broome county, on the Susquehanna river, declaring themselves as possessing the keys of the kingdom, and of the dispensation of the fulness of times! . . . And the voice of Michael, the archangel; the voice of Gabriel, and of Raphael, and of divers angels, from Michael or Adam down to the present time, all declaring their dispensation, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the power of their priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; here a little, and there a little; giving us consolation by holding forth that which is to come, confirming our hope! fn
(Kent P. Jackson, comp. and ed., Joseph Smith's Commentary on the Bible [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994], 175.)
Harold B. Lee on the Church:
The term "church," as it is frequently but loosely used with reference to professors of various beliefs, has two different meanings. It may mean the whole body of Christian worshipers everywhere, or it may refer to any specific religious society or body. "The Church" as spoken of in the scriptures had a much more significant meaning. The Church that the Master spoke of required the conferring upon the earthly head thereof, certain rights known as "the keys to the Kingdom of heaven" and to whom would be given the authority "to bind on earth and to loose on earth." with the assurance that such acts so performed would be bound or loosed in the heavens. Furthermore he declared to the Apostle Peter that the testimony he, Peter, had received of the divinity of the Savior was a revelation from his father in Heaven and that upon "this rock," confession of faith or principle of divine revelation, he would build his Church and the gates of hell would not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:15-18.) If there be those who believe falsely that his Church was to be built upon the Apostle Peter to whom he spoke, remind all such that the Master said on another occasion that he, himself, was the "stone" which men had rejected that was now to become "the head of the corner." (Matt. 21:42; Eph. 2:20; Col. 1:18) or the head of the Church. A church founded upon Peter or upon any other man would not be the Church of Jesus Christ but the church of Peter or that of any other man upon whom it was founded. This Church of Jesus Christ was to be "the power of God unto salvation." (Romans 1:16.) It was to have the only door to the sheepfold of his flock and any person whosoever would climb up any other way the same would be "a thief and a robber." (John 10:1-7.) Any ordinations performed without authority from the Lord's anointed were required to be repeated by proper authority. (Acts 19:1-6.) The Church that Jesus established was to have a definite organization with apostles and prophets presiding over it, and including pastors, teachers, evangelists, bishops, elders, priests, teachers and deacons, with Jesus Christ himself as the chief Cornerstone. (Ephesians 2:19-20.) Such an organization was to be devoted to the work of aiding every member thereof to become perfect and to preach the Gospel unceasingly to every people that all might receive the blessings of salvation administered therein; that through its educational system all might come to a unity of the faith and to a knowledge of the Son of God as a perfected Man. It was expected that such appointed officers and teachers should be as shepherds tending their flocks to keep out the "wolves" of false doctrine that might break in and destroy the faith of the "flock." (Acts 20:28-29.)
(Harold B. Lee, Decisions for Successful Living [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1973], 64 - 65.)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on Unity in the Gospel:
Paul taught the necessity of patience with individuals, bearing with one another in love and long-suffering (Eph. 4:2). Yet there was but one Christian Church, and within it a "unity of the Spirit," to which Paul added seven doctrinal unities: "One body, and one Spirit . . . one hope of your calling . . . one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all" (Eph. 4:3-6). Here Paul gives the spirit and body image that is so powerful in 1 Corinthians 12. He had mentioned Christ's "church, which is his body" (Eph. 1:22-23). So "one body and one spirit" is in plain words one true Church inspired by the Holy Ghost. Organization without revelation is mechanical, but revelation without inspired supervision is chaos. This picture of one true Church arises in great part from Paul's desire in Ephesians to teach Gentile Saints their eternal calling to be united with Jewish Saints. Though these were historically apart, Christ had "broken down the middle wall of division between us" (Eph. 2:14, NKJB). Paul could scarcely have written this without thinking of the shoulder-high temple wall separating the Court of the Gentiles from the inner Israelite courts, for he nearly lost his life on the charge of bringing a Gentile across that barrier. fn Gentiles are no longer outside, Paul says—Jew and non-Jew are "both one" (Eph. 2:14), "one new man" in the "one body" of the Church (Eph. 2:15-16).
Gentiles no longer are "strangers and foreigners" but belong to the same "household of God."
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 277.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Eternal Marriage:
Marriage and love are eternal. Those who continue in the married state in eternity have exaltation and possess the attributes of godliness. They then love each other with a perfect and abiding love. And the marriage status, here in mortality, is the schooling, preparatory state in which love may grow and blossom into that fulness of joy and perfection which can come only when body and spirit are inseparably connected in immortality. (D. & C. 93:33-34.)
Hence, Paul, using Christ as his pattern, here teaches: Christ has taken the Church as his bride; he is married to that body of true believers who have become saints; they are "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." He loves them, gave himself for them, and cleansed and sanctified them; he will perfect and glorify them so they shall dwell with him eternally in holiness and exaltation. He is their Savior.
And so it is in the true order of matrimony. A man marries a wife "for time and for all eternity" (D. & C. 132:18); those so married are separate from all others; she is now his, he is hers, and they become one flesh; they are no longer twain but have one body. Those who receive "all the ordinances of the house of the Lord," must get them "in the same way that Jesus Christ obtained" them (Teachings, p. 308), thus following the pattern of Christ their Head. They must then love their wives, sacrifice for their well-being and salvation, and guide them in holiness until they are cleansed, sanctified, and perfected, until they are prepared for exaltation in that glorious heaven where the family unit continues. Husbands thus become in effect the saviors of their wives (and their families!), and these in turn are called to bestow reverence and respect upon the heads of their eternal family units. Truly, in Paul's language, "This is a great mystery," as least until men's minds are opened by the power of the Spirit.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 518.)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on Paul's Teachings on Family Life:
"And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given himself for us" (Eph. 5:2, NKJB). Paul pictured the Church as those under covenant of righteous relations, following their Savior in uplifting all those around them. Husbands and wives receive special instructions in these principles; all the apostle said about concern for others is finally applied to the family. Indeed, Paul outlines a constitution of the family similar to the constitution of the Church in 1 Corinthians 12. This family structure is also defined in 1 Peter 3—these are the convictions of the Early Church. But constitutions define general relationships, leaving everyday living to be worked out within guidelines. This makes flexibility in different marriages inevitable as couples operate within general Christian roles.
Nothing written exceeds Ephesians 5 for its high view of married love. In our day of concern for women's rights, Paul's language about wives' "submitting" themselves to their husbands must be examined (Eph. 5:22). There are twin questions of what Paul meant and what application it has in gospel living today. By analogy, the modern world exists because of the principle of specialization; tasks are divided for better technology. So polarity between priesthood and motherhood is sound social engineering, making possible better-trained leaders in Church affairs and expert mothering in the crisis of a society losing its values. In this system neither sex is inferior (Gal. 3:28), and Latter-day Saints believe that God gave preexistent callings to serve in given sexual roles. fn Paul's "submit" has the literal meaning of "subordinate" in both Greek and Latin. This refers to placement in order, and is frequently a military term of arranging forces near each other and sometimes an anatomical term of the relationship of parts of the body. Thus, men and women fit into the orderly arrangement of Church and family with equal dignity and importance before God.
One avoids the emotional booby trap of "subordination" by asking specifically what it means in action: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:22; also Col. 3:18). The first step in understanding is to see the many relationships of submission that Paul teaches. "Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" (Eph. 5:21) had just been given as a general principle for all Saints. This also meant subordination of all to lawful government on the local and national levels (Rom. 13:1, 5; Titus 3:1). Men and women also shared "submission" to appointed local leaders in the Church (1 Cor. 14:32; 16:16). "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls" (Heb. 13:17); these branch leaders "labour among you, and are over you in the Lord, and admonish you" (1 Thes. 5:12). In what does the bishop admonish his members? He deals with questions of spiritual health and physical well-being, not with choice of menu, colors of dress, or the thousand personal decisions that express individuality. With proper counsel, the bishop plans and carries out group activities of worship, assistance, and recreation. In Paul's specific comparison, the husband is head to the wife "even as Christ is the head of the church"; but this analogy suggests strongly that Christ taught all things necessary for salvation and certainly did not dictate in the ordinary choices of everyday life (Eph. 5:23-24).
It is critical for husbands who imagine they have a mandate to think for their wives to understand what family presidency really is. Christ is the model for priesthood leadership in the home because he taught gospel truths, because he was a perfect example of living the truths that he taught, and because in the end he gave his life for the disciples that he loved. Paul gives husbands the duty of following Christ as the model leader; this is not a blank check for dominance. The word of the Lord is equally available to husbands and wives, and spiritual matters are questions of conscience for which both must answer to God directly. Just as the husband ought to have the providing role in a childbearing marriage, he is also assigned to lead in providing regular times of prayer, family teaching, church participation, and companionship and communication with wife and children. Because of common commitment, the wife is told to respect and support her husband's religious leadership. And the husband with a knowledge of good leadership will respect the principle of consultation before decision. As Paul says, Christ led with his only goal the salvation and eternal fulfillment of his disciples. On that analogy every caring husband will sacrifice time and money to see that his wife continues to have opportunities to develop her talents and interests in and out of the home.
Leadership always includes two opposing problems—lack of use, and abuse. And Paul warns fathers not to overdirect. The apostle commands, "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (Col. 3:19). But children also face the danger of leadership without love: "Fathers, provoke not your children to anger, lest they be discouraged" (Col. 3:21). Ephesians repeats that instruction with the substitution of a positive program: "Bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4, NKJB). Wives and husbands normally share the education and moral training of their children, but many women today stand at the head of single-parent households. So President Spencer W. Kimball's words on male leadership have great insight for mothers also. After using Paul's metaphor of Christ's sacrificing all for the Church, he added:
When the husband is ready to treat his household in that manner, not only his wife but also his children will respond to his loving and exemplary leadership. It will be automatic. He won't need to demand it; it will come because they will want to do what they understand to be necessary and right. Certainly if fathers are to be respected, they must merit respect. If they are to be loved, they must be consistent, lovable, understanding, and kind—and they must honor their priesthood. They must see themselves as fortunate trustees of precious spirit-children whom God has entrusted to their care.
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 287.)
Bruce R. McConkie on Parenting:
When the Father of spirits entrusts his spirit children to the care and custody of mortal parents, he does so upon the most explicit and positive conditions. For instance:
Parents are commanded to "bring up" their children "in light and truth." (D. & C. 93:40.) They are to teach them the plan of salvation (Moses 6:57-60), and the whole law of the whole gospel. (Deut. 6:4-9.) Theirs is the specific obligation to "teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord," as also "to understand the doctrine of repentance, faith in Christ the Son of the living God, and of baptism and the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of the hands, when eight years old." (D. & C. 68:25-28.)
Indeed, parents are to care for their children in all things both temporal and spiritual. As King Benjamin counseled: "Ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress the laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another, and serve the devil, who is the master of sin, or who is the evil spirit which hath been spoken of by our fathers, he being an enemy to all righteousness. But ye will teach them to walk in the ways of truth and soberness; ye will teach them to love one another, and to serve one another." (Mosiah 4:14-15.)
And children come into mortality with the inborn requirement, planted in their souls by that very Being who gave them birth as spirits, to honor their parents and to obey their counsel in righteousness.
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 520.)
Ezra Taft Benson on Becoming Like Christ:
The apostle Paul used some vivid expressions to illustrate that a member of the Church must be different from the world. He commended us to "put on Christ," "put off . . . the old man," and "put on the new man." (See Galatians 3:27; Ephesians 4:22, 24.)
What does that mean to us as members of the Church?
It means that we must become like Jesus Christ. We must emulate His way of life in our lives. Of necessity, we must be "born again" and put aside worldly lusts and former behavior unsuited to the Christlike character. We must seek the Holy Ghost to temper our actions.
How is this done?
As I have thought about the serious sins that some of our members have committed, I have wondered, Did they seek the Lord to help them overcome their emotional outbursts or lascivious desires? Did they rely on fasting and prayer? Did they seek a priesthood blessing? Did they ask our Heavenly Father to temper their emotions by the influence of the Holy Ghost?
Jesus said we are to "hunger and thirst after righteousness." (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 12:6.) To do this, we must earnestly desire a righteous and virtuous life.
(Ezra Taft Benson, Come unto Christ [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 50.)
Neal A. Maxwell on Paul's Council to "Put on the New Man":
Those enlightened ones who become the children of light are thenceforth not to be aligned with those of the world who are "alienated from the life of God." We are to put off the old man and put on the new man, the man of Christ. As we do this, we will "be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving." (See Ephesians 4:17-32.) It is these latter experiences that so many mortals seldom have, and thus in their deprivation they become hardened.
Even while we move along the prescribed path, success itself is dangerous unless it is managed by meekness. For instance, when with divine help we participate in giving crucial aid, perhaps causing the small equivalent of a little gushing of living water from the barren rocks, we, like Moses, need to be careful about causality by avoiding what might be called the pronoun problem (see Numbers 20:10).
Our outward involvement in spiritual things can also be illusive. One can be present at sacrament meeting but not really worship; the physical body can be there, while the mind and heart are elsewhere. One can accept a calling but still not magnify it, ending up by simply serving time. One can pay fast offerings unaccompanied by any personal service to needy neighbors or to the poor. We can open our checkbooks in the same way as some open their scriptures—more in mechanical than spiritual compliance.
In church we can join in singing the hymns while being without a song in our hearts. We can take the sacrament with hand and mouth yet not be taken in mind, at least sometimes, to Gethsemane and Calvary. We can play artful doctrinal ping-pong in various Church classes but with minds and hearts that are less stretched than the ping-pong net.
Even more serious, a person can even go through the temple without letting it pass through him!
The superficial, public observance of Church callings and duties does not transform private lives. Since they are seemingly doing everything, however, the untransformed wonder why they do not have more spiritual satisfaction.
(Neal A. Maxwell, Men and Women of Christ [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1991], 6.)
Richard Lloyd Anderson on Putting on the "Armor of God":
Paul ends Ephesians with the call to war against Satan, the true enemy. His kingdom is as real as God's, and Satan's kingdom is governed by Satan's principles (Eph. 6:12). The object is to withstand him without adopting his methods. But God will protect his Saints in the struggle. Paul may have glanced up at his guard's armor as he wrote of battle gear, a theme also in earlier letters and scriptures. Faith and righteousness are the principles of protection, and the sure weapon is the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" (Eph. 6:17). As described in the great Book of Mormon passage on the iron rod (1 Ne. 15:24), the word of God is a powerful means of success in life's struggle. The key to understanding it is Paul's identification of the Holy Ghost with the word of God. Personal revelation through prayer is the word of God; living prophets speaking by the Holy Ghost give the word of God; Christ and his prophets teach the word of God in scripture. All these give invincible strength to those seeking to be Saints in more than name only.
Scriptures sometimes associate sanctification with forgiveness through Christ, sometimes with the purifying influence of the Spirit—but more regularly with living Christ's laws, the means of obtaining both forgiveness and the constant guidance of the Holy Ghost. How these eternal realities of Ephesians apply today was summed up by Brigham Young: "Cast all bitterness out of your own hearts—all anger, wrath, strife, covetousness, and lust, and sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, that you may enjoy the Holy Ghost, and have that Spirit to be your constant companion day by day, to lead you into all truth, and then you will have good doctrine, good feelings, good wives, good children, a good community; and, finally, you will be Saints in the fullest sense of the word, but not yet. I believe we shall be Saints, through the grace of God."
(Richard Lloyd Anderson, Understanding Paul [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1983], 287.)
Bruce R. McConkie on the War of Mortal Probation:
Our mortal probation is a war, a continuation of the war in heaven (Rev. 12:7-17), a war against the world, against evil, against Satan. And there are no neutrals; all men are for the Lord or they are against him; they either serve under his banner or they live after the manner of the world and are in the bondage of sin. The only way for the Christian soldiers to come off victorious is to put on the whole armor of God. Paul did, and as his life drew to a close he was able to affirm, "I have fought a good fight, . . I have kept the faith." (2 Tim. 4:7.) King Mosiah did likewise and after he had "gone the way of all the earth," Alma the younger was able to say of him that he had "warred a good warfare" because he had walked "uprightly before God." (Alma 1:1.)
To the saints of latter-days the Lord himself revealed, in these words, the same truths previously given, by the power of his Spirit, to his ancient Apostle: "Lift up your hearts and rejoice, and gird up your loins, and take upon you my whole armor, that ye may be able to withstand the evil day, having done all, that ye may be able to stand. Stand, therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, having on the breastplate of righteousness, and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace, which I have sent mine angels to commit unto you; Taking the shield of faith wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked; And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of my Spirit, which I will pour out upon you, and my word which I reveal unto you, and be agreed as touching all things whatsoever ye ask of me, and be faithful until I come, and ye shall be caught up, that where I am ye 'shall be also." (D. & C. 27:15-15.)
(Bruce R. McConkie, Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3 vols. [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1965-1973], 2: 524.)