This question after a group dinner last week: "What does the Restoration mean, to the world and to you?"
I felt like I had just opened my AP English Lit test prompts again. Mind blank. Heart beating. We had just enjoyed an evening of good food, good conversation, and, for me, the security blanket of doing the dinner dishes. I had begun to relax and wasn't prepared to be thrust into test mode now. Scramble time.
As others in our group answered, I listened, hoping for some thought to form. In my mind I searched for some personal "aha moment" with which to answer. But all that came to mind was the memory of drowning in darkness — the darkness of doubt. Doubt about the validity of the Restoration. Doubt about the very existence and integrity of the God who authored it. I remembered the darkness; the loneliness; the daily fright of spiritual entropy.
I also remembered clinging to the Book of Mormon during that time, pleading in prayer, walking alone in dark mornings and weeping because I felt so awful and unworthy. Every day.
And then I began to remember quiet, subtle feelings of peace during those months ... a loving hand reaching out from heaven. Not removing the burden. Yet. But touching with love. I remembered, eventually, the burden lifting ... almost without my noticing it. And the emptiness, the drowning replaced with greater light, personal knowledge of and love for God.
As I remembered I listened as one friend in this group said the world seems to have a nagging sense of a need for redemption — an awareness that there is something inherently wrong in this world — and that the Restoration revealed how that redemption is to be brought about. Her thought stuck with me. I began to turn it over in my mind, sensing that somehow that thought and my memories connected.
Then it came to me; thoughts I had never considered. With this surprising flow of thought came a warmth in my chest and a different pounding of my heart, one that spelled to me that I would be opening my mouth.
This is what came out of my mouth. This is what I believe:
The purpose of the Restoration, really of Joseph Smith, was to re-reveal the true character of God. For millennia the idea of God and His attributes/characteristics had been warped and trampled, until the world was left with a vague idea of a vaporous Deity who 1) condemned mankind to be born and die in sin, 2) had none of the physical, mental or emotional attributes of a mortal person, 3) was impossible to comprehend or to reach, 4) was pitted, by these and other false attributes, as opposite from and, thus, in opposition to, the race of man, and 5) had left man to himself, in the hands of whatever spiritual leaders someone chose to follow. To figure out salvation for themselves or end up in hell. An absent God. An apathetic God. A vengeful God.
However, the God Joseph met in the Grove gave him the mandate to reveal His true self, to prepare a people to receive the true God. The God of the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, the words of living prophets ... He is a God who is Compassionate, Loving, Concerned, Active, Present, Patient, and ... so Close. In a world with those inherent questions — "What is wrong?" and "What can possibly make it right?" — He gives The Answer: The Atonement. And all the fruits of the Atonement — prayer, the gifts of the Spirit, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the blessings of peace, direction, and change through prophets, the temple, and repentance. Yes, the gift of repentance. A gift that brings us back into God's presence every time.
To me, the Restoration means that man is not alone. That I am not alone. Ever.
Truly, loneliness is one of the most comprehensive maladies in the world, mankind's greatest fear. I consider the Dark Ages the loneliest time in the history of the world.
Yet the Restoration reveals a God whose arm is truly outstretched still ... and always. To every child. Just a prayer away. Just a plea away. Just a breath away. Every breath ... is a loving gift from a loving Father. A Father who just wants to show His children how much He loves them ... how perfect and freeing His love is. Who wants His children to open themselves enough to be convinced of that saving, constant, measureless love.
How beautifully does the Book of Mormon describe Isaiah; how easy is the compassionate God of Isaiah to understand because of the Restoration.
The Restoration revealed a God who answers our questions. A God who gives us the right questions. A God who gives us peace and comfort. A God who motivates us, through love, to change and action. A Father who ever listens and always answers. A Father who guides and protects us in our sojourn away from home. A Father whose loving arms wrap around His children when they're lonely.
A Father who loves His children so much that He reveals, through prophets, every law His children can keep to make it back home, to happiness greater than we can imagine ... but a happiness we each ache for. A Father who loves us so much that He shows us the standards for salvation, and then, rather than leaving us to ourselves to claw our way to the top, reaches out to help us rise, as often as we truly ask Him ... and sometimes even when we truly don't.
The Restoration is the reason I stopped drowning. The Restoration revealed a loving Father's outstretched arm. It revealed that my name is in God's mind and on His lips. The Restoration revealed the Atonement: the ultimate Answer, to every thing that makes a child cry.
The Solution. The Answer. The Blueprint. The Way. And the redeeming love that makes it all possible. That is what I realized the Restoration means, to me and to the world.
And now I give you the prompt: What does the Restoration mean, to you and to the world?