Some time after joining the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Louis F. Moench wrote about the excitement he felt in his renewed faith and about the importance of sharing that faith with the world. Later set to music and translated to English, his verse became the hymn “Hark, All Ye Nations!” an anthem that echoes the zeal of all those who have learned and preached the reality of God and of His love for His children since ancient times. Moses stood before Pharaoh and testified of the the great “God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob” (Exodus 3:15) who had prepared a way to deliver His people from Egypt; Isaiah gloried in the Lord’s “marvellous work and a wonder” (Isaiah 29:14) that would bring the people’s hearts back to the Lord; Paul was “not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” but declared it boldly, for he knew it to be “the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16); the Book of Mormon prophet Alma wished that he “were an angel” so that he could persuade everyone everywhere to “repent and come unto our God, that there might not be more sorrow upon all the face of the earth” (Alma 29:2). Indeed, it is such a great joy to know that God lives and that He speaks to us. As a result, those who have that faith and testimony are eager to share it with all who will listen.
Hark, All Ye Nations! Hear heaven’s voice
Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said: “Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth: for the Lord hath spoken” (Isaiah 1:2). While the revelations of Isaiah often seem to be characterized by prophecies of destruction and harsh condemnations, they are balanced and filled by the tender messages of God’s mercy and love for all of His children in every nation. Though He soundly rebukes them in earlier prophecies, the Lord promises ultimate peace to Egypt and Assyria, the enemies of His chosen people Israel, saying, “Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel mine inheritance” (Isaiah 19:25). In the end, He makes no difference between Israel and their antagonizers: all will be blessed by His mercy. Indeed, God is not the God of a chosen few: He is the Father of all the inhabitants of the earth, and, while our own choices may lead us into strife, His work is to bless and prosper all of His children—without exception. When God speaks, He does so to show us all how to live in order to find happiness. “Learn to do well,” He taught through Isaiah, “seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow” (Isaiah 1:17). After inviting the people to live to a higher moral standard, God, through His prophet, promised, “If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isaiah 1:19). If our Father in Heaven was so determined to bless His obedient children anciently, why would He not want to teach us the way of happiness today?
Thru ev’ry land that all may rejoice!
After teaching the Philippians their duty, the Apostle Paul reminded them, “Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). Sometimes, the commandments may look like interminable lists of shalt not’s, restrictions designed to hold people back. It’s a natural impulse to push back when we are told what to do. I think Paul was aware of that when he reminded the Philippians to rejoice: though he had sent them a catalogue of corrections and commandments, he wanted them to remember that his counsel was based in God’s plan for their happiness. Even today, I know that I feel happier and more secure when I am doing my best to follow the teachings of Christ, to pray, to be kind to others, and to live according to God’s will. There are times when it feels like more than I can do, but, when I get lax, things don’t go as well. I know that God desires our happiness, and I know that His word comes to teach us how to achieve great joy—not just some far-off joy in the next life, but real joy today.
Angels of glory shout the refrain: Truth is restored again!
All over the world, thousands of missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are teaching those who receive them about God’s plan for our happiness. The great message of the Church of Jesus Christ is that God still speaks to His children and that He still calls prophets who transmit God’s word to us and who point us to our Savior Jesus Christ so that, through Him, we can rise above the woes and stresses of life. We, as members of the Church, believe that God has restored the authority to direct His affairs on the earth and to perform the great work of salvation so that all of His children might believe and “enter into his rest” (Hebrews 3:18).
Searching in darkness, nations have wept
Of course, to say that something has been restored is to say that it was, at some point, lost. After Jesus Christ’s resurrection, He commissioned the apostles, whom He had called and authorized, to go “into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). They obeyed, and the church that Christ organized grew as His gospel spread. The apostles maintained the order of the Church and the purity of the revelations and often sent out letters to far-flung congregations in order to prevent human fallibility from corrupting the early saints’ understanding of God’s eternal truth. However, amidst persecution, the apostles were martyred, and the Church began to splinter. Paul remarked that he was surprised to see how the church in Galatia was “so soon removed from…the grace of Christ unto another gospel” by those who “would pervert the gospel of Christ” (Galatians 1:6-7). Before long, those who held God’s authority were gone, leaving nobody through whom the word of God to His church could be revealed. In time, even humanity’s understanding of the nature of God went from being a matter of clear and simple revelation to being a matter of scholarly debate and theological controversy. The fulness of God’s plan was gradually lost through accumulated human errors. The time came, as foreseen by Amos, when there came “a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thrist for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.” Said Amos of that time, the people of the earth“shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the Lord, and shall not find it” (Amos 8:11-12). Of course, Father in Heaven was not content to let His children languish in confusion. He preserved key fragments of the truth, and He inspired good men and women to defend faith and virtue while He prepared the way to bring about the restoration of the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
All now rejoice; the long night is o’er.
The time of restoration came in 1820 when Joseph Smith, then fourteen years old, was caught up in the confusion that came with having countless Christian churches all professing to have the truth. Joseph wanted to find the truth in its fulness, and he fully expected to find it in one of the churches where he lived in western New York. He later wrote, “I attended their several meetings as often as occasion would permit,” but he added that “it was impossible for a person young as I was, and so unacquainted with men and things, to come to any certain conclusion who was right and who was wrong.” While he listened to preachers and searched the Bible for some clue that would show him where to find the true church of Christ, Joseph Smith came upon the Epistle of James and these simple words: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him” (James 1:5).
Joseph decided then that he would go to the source of truth for the answer he sought, supposing that, if anybody could point him in the right direction, it would be God. He went to a grove near his home and offered his question to God in prayer, and God answered in a miraculous way. Joseph wrote:
I saw a pillar of light exactly over my head, above the brightness of the sun, which descended gradually until it fell upon me…. When the light rested upon me I saw two Personages, whose brightness and glory defy all description, standing above me in the air. One of them spake unto me, calling my name and said, pointing the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!
God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ appeared in response to a humble prayer. They answered Joseph’s question, saying of the competing churches Joseph was to “join none of them, for they were all wrong.” Joseph was then called to be prophet, a tool in the Lord’s hands to bring about the restoration of Christ’s gospel as it had existed before the centuries of confusion following the deaths of the apostles.
Truth is on earth once more!
Ten years after Joseph Smith saw the Father and the Son, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized. During that intervening decade, Joseph translated the Book of Mormon, an ancient record and witness of the divinity of Jesus Christ that restored the truths that had been lost from the Bible. The Lord called twelve apostles and commissioned them once again to go forth and preach the gospel to every creature as directed by Him through the Prophet Joseph Smith. With the restoration of the gospel and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ, God opened the way for all of His children to hear His voice again, to learn His ways, and to discover His joy.
To ev’ry land and people we’ll go, teaching his holy word.
An invitation from a member of the Church to Jesus Christ to learn about the Church is an invitation to share the truths that form the foundation of that member’s happiness and faith. I know that God lives and that He speaks through a prophet today because living by His counsel has brought me greater joy and understanding. As I mentioned before, God is not the God of a select few, but is, rather, the Father of us all. He loves us all and wants us all to enjoy the happiness and blessings that a life of faith will bring us. It is my testimony that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the restored church of Jesus Christ, the place where we can find all the truths that will lead us to happiness now and forever. I also know that there is no finer way to spark a similar conviction than to do as James suggests, to “ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” Surely God will hear your prayer and lead you in the right way: He has heard mine.