Christ's Ancient Church
When our Savior was on Earth, He promised to establish His Church when He said to His Apostles, "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (Matt. 16:19)" The Redeemer in this verse uses the term "keys of the kingdom". Speaking of this phrase a modern Apostle, Elder Boyd K. Packer, has stated, "The keys of priesthood authority [the keys of the kingdom] represent . . . the power . . . to act in the name of God upon the earth. (The Holy Temple, p. 82)" Six days after Jesus Christ promised His Apostles the Keys of the Kingdom, He climbed the Mount of Transfiguration, bringing along the Apostles Peter (he being the President of the Twelve Apostles), James, and John to witness the event. Jesus was then "transfigured before them: and His face did shine as the sun, and His raiment was white as the light. (John 17:2)" The Bible then tells us that Moses and Elijah appeared before the four mortals. Although no reason is given in our present Bible why Moses and Elijah came to Jesus, Peter, James, and John at this point, further insight into this occurrence is given in the History of the Church, volume 3, page 387: "The Savior, Moses, and Elias, gave the keys to Peter, James, and John, on the mount, when they were transfigured before Him. . . . Wherever the ordinances of the Gospel are administered, there is the Priesthood." These keys enabled God's Authority to be exercised here on Earth. Eventually the Keys were given to all of he Twelve (Matt.10) and later, to others (Acts 6). However, the ancient Apostles of the Lord knew that Christ's Church would enter a period of Great Apostasy.
The Apostle Paul taught, "For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them (Acts 20:29-30)." Speaking of the Second Coming of Christ, Paul also taught in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, "Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first . . ." John the Revelator saw in vision the then-imminent Apostasy of Christ's Church. "And [the woman] brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up unto God, and to His throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness . . . (Rev. 12:5-6)" We learn from modern revelation that the woman is Christ's Church (see D&C 115:4)
The prophet Nephi saw a vision in chapter 13 of the Book of Nephi in which he saw, among other things, the writings of Christ's Apostles in their purity. Nephi then saw what happened to the Bible shortly after it was compiled as we now know it. The angel explains,
Therefore, these things go forth from the Jews in purity unto the Gentiles, according to the truth which is in God. And after they go forth by the hand of the Twelve Apostles of the Lamb, from the Jews unto the Gentiles, thou seest the formation of that great and abominable church, which is most abominable above all other churches; for behold, they have taken away from the Gospel of the Lamb many parts which are plain and most precious; and also many covenants of the Lord have they taken away. (1 Nephi 13:25-26)
I thought to add a second verse, but this seems sufficient to show that a Great Apostasy occurred in both the Western and Eastern Hemispheres.
Joseph Smith's First Vision
In the spring of 1820, Joseph Smith prayed to know which church to join because he saw there were so many churches in his area, all of which claimed to be God's Church, but teaching differing doctrines. Elder Erastus Snow of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught why confusion reigned. Said he, "To the loss of the Priesthood may be ascribed most of the divisions in the Christian world at the present day, and the great doubt upon the minds of all the contending parties, which have prevailed to such an extent from the days of the primitive Christians. (Times and Seasons 2:506, 16 August 1841)" In answer to his supplication, God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ came to Joseph. Joseph Smith wrote about his Vision:
My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of all the sects was right, that I might know which to join. No sooner, therefore, did I get possession of myself, so as to be able to speak, than I asked the Personages who stood above me in the light, which of all the sects was right. . . . I was answered that I must join none of them, for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me said that all their creeds were an abomination in His sight; that those professors were all corrupt; that: 'they draw near to me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me, they teach for doctrines the commandments of men, having a form of godliness, but they deny the power thereof.' (JS-H 1:18-19)
The Restoration of Priesthood Keys
As part of the Restoration of the Gospel, the Book of Mormon was brought forth. During the translation process, Joseph Smith was assisted by Oliver Cowdery. The Prophet and Oliver
On a certain day went into the woods to pray and inquire of the Lord respecting baptism for the remission of sins, that we found mentioned in the translation of the plates. While we were thus employed, praying and calling upon the Lord, a messenger from heaven descended in a cloud of light, and having laid his hands upon us, he ordained us, saying: Upon you my fellow servants, in the name of Messiah, I confer the Priesthood of Aaron, which holds the keys of the ministering of angels, and of the gospel of repentance, and of baptism by immersion for the remission of sins. . . . He said this Aaronic Priesthood had not the power of laying on hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, but that this should be conferred on us hereafter; and he commanded us to go and be baptized. . . . (JS-H 1:68-69)
Oliver Cowdery described the event thus: "On a sudden, as from the midst of eternity, the voice of the Redeemer spake peace to us, while the veil was parted and the angel of God came down clothed with glory, and delivered the anxiously looked for message, and the keys of the Gospel of repentance. What joy! what wonder! what amazement! (Messenger and Advocate, vol 1 (October 1834), p. 14-16)"
Then, in 1836 at the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, Moses, Elias, and Elijah appeared and conferred Priesthood Keys. These Keys were the Keys of the gathering of Israel, the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham, and the Sealing Authority, respectively.
At a conference held in Nauvoo, Illinois on 16 August 1841, President Joseph Smith said, "The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency . . . and assist to bear off the kingdom victoriously to the nations" (HC 4:403).
Shortly before the Prophet's murder, he conferred these keys upon the heads of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, thus making them equal in Authority with the First Presidency, and therefore, the next in line to succeed President Joseph Smith after his decease. President Brigham Young said, "Joseph conferred upon our heads all the keys and powers belonging to the Apostleship which he himself held before he was taken away, and no man or set of men can get between Joseph and the Twelve" (Essentials in Church History, p. 320). President Wilford Woodruff recalled, "I bear my testimony that . . . in Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph Smith called the Apostles together and he delivered unto them . . . all the keys and powers that God had bestowed upon him" (Statement, 19 March 1897, Church Archives). Elder Orson Hyde remarked, "We were in council with Brother Joseph almost every day for weeks. . . . He conducted us through every ordinance of the holy priesthood . . . and said, 'now if they kill me you have got all the keys, and all the ordinances'" (Times and Seasons, 15 Sep. 1844, p. 651).
Thus it is shown that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is the only Authorized Church of Christ on earth - the only place where the power to act in the name of God exists. I know this testimony is true, and I so witness it in the Name of Jesus Christ the Messiah. Amen!