When Jesus was on the earth, He established His Church. That same Church exists today.
God sent Jesus, not only to save us from sin, but to establish a church. When Jesus died, He left behind more than powerful sermons and teachings. He left behind Apostles, commandments, and a basic church organization that would continue to bless others long after His death. He also gave righteous men God’s priesthood, or the power and authority to act in His name. It’s the same power Jesus Christ Himself used to heal the sick, raise the dead, bless the afflicted, and appoint people to lead His Church.
As the Church grew, the Apostles faced growing chaos and dissent among believers and harsh opposition from non-believers. Apostles were martyred, and people started to disagree on the basic points of Jesus’s teachings. People began forming various churches without God’s authority to do so. Those churches were all different from one another—and strayed from Jesus Christ’s original Church.
As a result, Christianity experienced a widespread apostasy, or departure from core religious beliefs. The true Church as Jesus had established it wasn’t found on the earth anymore. God’s priesthood authority to act in His name was lost, pure principles were corrupted, and the basic truths of the gospel were scattered among churches.
After centuries, God and Jesus called a new prophet, Joseph Smith, to restore the Church and all its true teachings.
Joseph grew up in humble circumstances in Palmyra, New York. Many churches and preachers were competing for converts in the area. Joseph was confused about which church he should join because they all taught different things. He came across a verse in the Bible that said to ask God if you had a question, and He would answer.
Joseph decided to pray. He went to a private place in the woods and knelt down. He humbly asked God in prayer which church he should join. God and Jesus came to him in a vision. Later, Joseph described this sacred experience:
“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 me by name and said, pointing to the other—This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:16–17).
God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ told Joseph not to join any of the existing churches. They told him that through him, Jesus would eventually restore His original Church. Joseph Smith would become a prophet, just like biblical prophets of old. He was given the priesthood authority that had been lost, and with it, the power to baptize, to heal the sick, and to call Apostles and other leaders. The restored Church was officially organized in 1830.