The word, restoration, used in a gospel sense, refers to the reestablishment of lost truths. Thus, over the span of time there have been many restorations of gospel principles. Moses is a good example of a restorer. He was a prophet, seer, and revelator who regathered the oppressed Children of Israel, organized them into one people, isolated them from the idolatrous practices of Egypt, and taught them the gospel anew. When such a restoration occurs, it establishes a new dispensation of the gospel under a prophet whose calling is as a restorer. That prophet receives keys, or authority from God, to establish truth, covenants, ordinances, and patterns of worship which have been lost or corrupted. All the prophets have testified that Jesus is the messiah:
- For behold, did not Moses prophesy unto them concerning the coming of the Messiah, and that God should redeem his people? Yea, and even all the prophets who have prophesied ever since the world began—have they not spoken more or less concerning these things (Mosiah 13:33)?
In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi quotes writings from Joseph, who was sold into Egypt:
- Wherefore, Joseph truly saw our day. And he obtained a promise of the Lord, that out of the fruit of his loins the Lord God would raise up a righteous branch unto the house of Israel; not the Messiah, but a branch which was to be broken off, nevertheless, to be remembered in the covenants of the Lord that the Messiah should be made manifest unto them in the latter days, in the spirit of power, unto the bringing of them out of darkness unto light—yea, out of hidden darkness and out of captivity unto freedom.
- For Joseph truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins.
- Yea, Joseph truly said: Thus saith the Lord unto me: A choice seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and he shall be esteemed highly among the fruit of thy loins. And unto him will I give commandment that he shall do a work for the fruit of thy loins, his brethren, which shall be of great worth unto them, even to the bringing of them to the knowledge of the covenants which I have made with thy fathers.
- And he shall be great like unto Moses, whom I have said I would raise up unto you, to deliver my people, O house of Israel.
- But a seer will I raise up out of the fruit of thy loins; and unto him will I give power to bring forth my word unto the seed of thy loins—and not to the bringing forth my word only, saith the Lord, but to the convincing them of my word, which shall have already gone forth among them.
- Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write; and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions, and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord.
- And out of weakness he shall be made strong, in that day when my work shall commence among all my people, unto the restoring thee, O house of Israel, saith the Lord (2 Nephi 3:5-7, 9, 11- 13, emphasis added).
Joseph prophesied that this future seer would be "called after me; and it shall be after the name of his father (2 Nephi 3:15). That seer is the prophet Joseph Smith, Jr., the prophet of the restoration in the last dispensation before the coming of Christ.
Why is there a need for a restoration?
For there to be a need for a restoration, there must have occurred a falling away or apostasy from the true gospel of Christ. During his ministry, the Apostle Paul predicted a general apostasy:
- Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3, emphasis added).
Heretical ideas were already creeping into congregations of the church while Paul was still alive, and he warned against them again and again. It was not long before many groups evolved with various doctrines. The orthodox Christian churches are those whose doctrines and precepts were codified in councils of men, who legislated the very nature of God, in addition to lesser doctrines. Many hundreds of years later, after the "Dark Ages," when few had scriptures in their possession, and the churches increased in corruption, a "reformation" ensued. The men who gave their lives to establish the Protestant churches were actually looking for a return to the church as Christ originally established it. They were looking for a restoration. Thus, the founder of Methodism, John Wesley, "regarded himself as commissioned by God to bring about revival in the church; and no opposition, or persecution, or obstacles could prevail against the divine urgency and authority of this commission. 
However, no man can hope to restore the true gospel of Christ in its fullness, except he be a true prophet, with authority to act in God's name.
- Apostasy led to the formation of many churches with conflicting teachings. Without the full gospel or the priesthood authority, people relied on human wisdom to interpret the scriptures and the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ. False ideas were taught as truth, and much of the knowledge of the true character and nature of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost was lost. The doctrines of faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost became distorted or forgotten. Each generation inherited a state of apostasy, as people were influenced by what previous generations passed on, including changes to Christ’s gospel. Some inspired people, such as Martin Luther and John Calvin, recognized that practices and doctrines had been changed or lost and tried to reform the churches to which they belonged. Without the priesthood authority, however, Christ’s gospel could not be returned to its original form. 
The restoration of Christ's living church
All of the revival's protestant leaders were persecuted, some unto death. In Europe, persecution drove many believers to flee to America, where freedom of worship was allowed. The United States, with its laws guaranteeing freedom of speech, gathering, and religion, was fertile ground for religious revivalism, and by the time Joseph Smith was a young teenager, there were many "restorationist" groups in America.
- In 1820, as He had done throughout history, Father in Heaven again chose a prophet to restore the gospel and the priesthood to the earth. He called a young man named Joseph Smith, and through him, the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to the earth.
- Joseph Smith lived in the United States, which was perhaps the only country to enjoy religious freedom at the time. It was at a time of great religious excitement in the eastern United States, and Joseph Smith’s family members were deeply religious and constantly sought for truth. The Holy Bible taught that there was “one Lord, one faith, one baptism” ( Ephesians 4:5), but many ministers claimed to have the true gospel. Joseph attended different churches, but he was confused about which church he should join and desired “to know which of all the sects was right (Joseph Smith—History 1:18).” 
When young Joseph Smith retired to a grove of trees to inquire of the Lord which of the many sects he should join, God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him and told him he should join none of them, that they had all gone astray, and that the Lord was about to establish a "great work," in which the true gospel of Christ, with its attendant priesthood authority, was about to be restored.
- Joseph Smith’s First Vision marked the beginning of the Restoration of Jesus Christ’s Church to the earth. In subsequent years, Christ restored His priesthood and reorganized His Church. He has continued to reveal truths to His prophets and to restore the blessings that were taken from the earth for a time.
- The Apostle Peter prophesied of the “restitution of all things” before Christ’s Second Coming (Acts 3:19–21). The Restoration of Christ’s Church on the earth has made available the opportunity for all to once again receive all of the blessings of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The fullness of times
|Part of the series on|
The current restoration of the gospel is the last before the second coming of Christ. It is the dispensation of the "fullness of times," or the "restitution of all things." All true gospel practices from all ages of time must be restored (at least temporarily) during this dispensation to gather all things in one and fulfill them all. This is the reason for the temporary practice of plural marriage by the Saints. Under a commandment by the Lord, they fulfilled the lawful practice followed by Abraham and others. Animal sacrifice will also very briefly be restored.  The ancient priesthood authority has been restored, as have the doctrines pertaining to the godhead, to eternal marriage, to the Plan of Salvation, to the use of temples, to the revealing of scripture, to the saving ordinances of Christ.
A declaration to the world
- President Hinckley has said concerning the Restoration: “After many generations had walked the earth—so many of them in conflict, hatred, darkness, and evil—there arrived the great, new day of the Restoration. This glorious gospel was ushered in with the appearance of the Father and the Son to the boy Joseph. The dawn of the dispensation of the fulness of times rose upon the world. All of the good, the beautiful, the divine of all previous dispensations was restored in this most remarkable season” (“The Dawning of a Brighter Day,” Liahona and Ensign, May 2004, 83).
- Our message is unique. We declare to the world that the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ has been restored to the earth. We declare with boldness that the keys of the priesthood have been restored to man, with the power to seal on earth and in the heavens. The saving ordinances pronounced by the Lord as requirements for entering into eternal life with Him can now be performed with binding authority by those who worthily exercise the power of His holy priesthood. We declare to the world that this is the day referred to by biblical prophets as the latter days. It is the final time, before the coming of Jesus Christ to rule and reign over the earth.
- We invite all to listen to the message of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ from us. Then you can compare the glorious message with what you may hear from others, and you can determine which is from God and which is from man.
- My witness to you is that this is the Church of Jesus Christ, established in the latter days. In the name of our Lord and Savior, even Jesus Christ, amen (L. Tom Perry, “The Message of the Restoration,” Ensign, May 2007, 85–88).
Therefore, marvel not at these things, for ye are not yet pure; ye can not yet bear my glory; but ye shall behold it if ye are faithful in keeping all my words that I have given you, from the days of Adam to Abraham, from Abraham to Moses, from Moses to Jesus and his apostles, and from Jesus and his apostles to Joseph Smith, whom I did call upon by mine angels, my ministering servants, and by mine own voice out of the heavens, to bring forth my work (Doctrine and Covenants 136:37).
- To see a video of late President Gordon B. Hinckley testifying of the restoration of the gospel, click here.
- Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Marvelous Foundation of Our Faith”
- James E. Faust, “The Restoration of All Things”
- Robert D. Hales:"Preparations for the Restoration"