Saturday, April 07, 2012

April 6th--The Day of Restoration

April 6th is an important day in Mormon history; a date that Mormons of all denominations reverence for different reasons.

Reform Mormons celebarte April 6th as "The Day of Restoration."

(Above: The Peter Whitmer Farm)

On Tuesday, April 6, 1830 representatives from the first three Mormon congregations (in Fayette, NY; in Manchester, NY, and in Colesville, Pennsylvania) met at the Whitmer farm in Fayette to legally form a new denomination according to the laws of the state of New York.

Originally called simply "The Church of Christ," this new denominations members were nicknamed "Mormons" or "Mormonites" by their neighbors and by the newspapers of the day, because of their belief in "The Book of Mormon"--a new book of scripture that was then being prepared for publication. On April 6, 1830 those first Mormonites/Mormons elected Joseph Smith (the author and proprieter of "The Book of Mormon") and Oliver Cowdrey to offices of First Elder and Second Elder over the legally organized denomination.

(Above: Joseph Smith was elected First Elder of Mormonism on April 6, 1830)

(Above: Oliver Cowdrey was elected the Second Elder of Mormonism on April 6,1830)

What set the original Mormonites/Mormons apart from their neighbors was a belief that God was immediately present in their individual lives, that God was again active in human history and that there had been a "restoration" of "spiritual gifts" that had mostly disappeared from the earth--spirituals gifts" including such things as Divine visions and revelations, prophecy and faith healings, the unveiling of new knowledge and the endowments of Divine power into human hands.

In short, the power and the intimacy between God and humans that these early 19th cnetury Americans had been reading about in the Christian Bible all of their live , had been "restored" as part of modern day (latter day) life.

This "collapse of distance" between the human and the Divine is a foundational concept of Reform Mormonism.

Reform Mormons do not believe that God is an all-powerful, unapproachable, mysterious entity in some far off heaven, Who they should fear, and Who demands their worship, their blind faith and their unquestioning obedience.

Rather Reform Mormons know God as an intimate presence in their lives. God is a loving Heavenly Parent who shares a common nature with them; Who understands from His own experiences everything that they are experiencing and feeling, and Who can, therefore, speak to their condition--whatever that condition may be.

Freed from the type of thinking that has for centuriues distanced huamnity from God, Reform Mormons are encouraged to live life fully, embrace as good life on earth, establish eternal relationships with loved-ones, to accept and encourage human progress, to develope their talents and abilities, and to fearlessly and happily approach God--just as one would approach a beloved father or mother.

In this sense, Reform Mormons hold that a proper understanding of humanity's relationship to God has been "restored."

Reform Mormons also embrace the original understanding of the word "restoration" that was made known to the world in the late Spring of 1830 when "The Book of Mormon" was originally published.

This concept of "restoration" is related to the central concept of a holiday celebrated by Christians each spring--the concept of "resurrection."

(Above:Luca Signorelli's "The Resurrection of the Flesh." Below: A detail from Signorelli's painting celebrates the reunion of loved ones in the resurrection--a concept central of Mormon ideas of the Resurrection and Restoration.)

Early Christians, drawing certain propheices found in the writings of older Jewish prophets (such as Ezekiel and Daniel), believed that at some future time, God's perfect justice would be restored to the earth,and that all humans who had ever lived would be resurrected from the dead, to stand before God, to be judged and rewarded according to their deeds.

The first generation of those who followed Jesus of Nazareth believed that Jesus himself had been resurrected from the dead following his execution on the cross by the Romans; that through this event, the bounds of death and the grave had been broken forever; and that the time was at hand when there would be a universal resurrection--when everyone who had ever died would be "restored" back to life. At that time "the tabernacle of God" would be established on earth in the presence of all huammity. An intimate relationship between God and the human race (like the relationship envisioned in the Garden of Eden story--between Adam, Eve and God) would be "restored" to the earth.
(Above: A painting by Mormon artist Arnold Friberg depicting a story from "The Book of Mormon" concerning the resurrection of Jesus.)

Such ideas of "restoration" serve as the foundtaion of Easter--the holiday which celebrates the resurrection of Jesus. These same ideas consitute "The Book of Mormon" concept of "restoration"--as is evident in the following passages:

“… the grave must deliver up its captive bodies, and the bodies and the spirits of men will be restored one to the other; and it is by the power of the resurrection of the Holy One of Israel. O how great the plan of our God!... the spirit and the body is restored to itself again, and all men become incorruptible, and immortal, and they are living souls, having a perfect knowledge like unto us in the flesh, save it be that our knowledge shall be perfect.” (“The Book of Mormon,” II Nephi 9: 12-13)

(Above: A Michelangelo's study of The Resurrection of the Dead)

"The spirit and the body shall be reunited again in its perfect form; both limb and joint shall be restored to its proper frame, even as we now are at this time; and we shall be brought to stand before God, knowing even as we know now, and have a bright recollection of all our guilt.
(Above: A William Blake drawing of "The Resurrection of the Dead")

"Now, this restoration shall come to all, both old and young, both bond and free, both male and female, both the wicked and the righteous; and even there shall not so much as a hair of their heads be lost; but every thing shall be restored to its perfect frame, as it is now, or in the body, and shall be brought and be arraigned before the bar of Christ the Son, and God the Father, and the Holy Spirit, which is one Eternal God, to be judged according to their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil.” (“The Book of Mormon,” Alma 11:43-44)
(Above: Another William Blake drawing of the Resurrection, this one celebrating the restoration of couple once divided by death. A belief in the restoration of couples and families in eternity despite death is central to Mormonism.)

For Reform Mormons, existence is eternal. Death is not the end. There something eternal in each of us--something that existed before our birth, and which will continue after death. The knowledge that we gain in this life will stay with us eternally, and can benefit us forever. The relationships we establish in this life--our marriages, our families, our friendships--can last eternally. The experience of living here and now will stay with us lomng after this life is over-influencing our Eternal Progression.
(Above:Lord Frederic Leighton's "And The Sea Gave Up The Dead Which Were In It"--depicting the restoration of a husband, wife and son through the resurrection of the dead.)

In the end everything which death seems to destroy and take from us, will be restored to us.

With this vision, Reform Mormonism teaches that each of us should strive to see the eternal aspect of all things; to apporach God with the conviction that we have been restored to a loving relationship with Him; to live today as if we were already living in eternity--with faith, hope, love, integrity and joy.

For more information visit the Reform Mormonism website.