The lesson for priesthood in church today was chapter 44 from the manual, about the dispensation of the fulness of times. Much of the lesson was directed towards helping us understand exactly what that phrase means, and why it’s so important.
I remember when I first realized that importance myself. When I first really started studying the scriptures, about ten years ago, I had only been active for a few years, and still had some skepticism and rough edges to my faith. One aspect of that was wondering if maybe the church’s interpretation of some Biblical verses to refer to the establishment of the church in these last days was, perhaps, wishful thinking, a kind of forced interpretation done out of narcissism. “How convenient,” I thought, “that all these ancient prophets were so obsessed with us.”
As I read the Bible, though, I saw that my assumption was ironically mistaken. It was I, not the church, that was interpreting the Bible based on a viewpoint too focused on the present. As I studied entire books whole, I saw the contexts that those prophets wrote from, the needs of their times and places, and it became very clear why they so often wrote about the “dispensation of the fulness of times.”
Because it gave them hope. They taught their people about our age so that they might know that their work wouldn’t be in vain, that they were part of an ongoing work that would culminate in the triumphant spread of the gospel in this generation. We today, our families and stakes and communities, we are the reward that saints and prophets of all ages have sacrificed and struggled for. Knowing that our time would come helped give them the strength to go on.
Finding that idea throughout the Bible and other scriptures showed me that there’s nothing proud in seeing our day predicted in ancient writings. To the contrary, it makes me profoundly humble, and grateful.
“The building up of Zion is a cause that has interested the people of God in every age; it is a theme upon which prophets, priests and kings have dwelt with peculiar delight; they have looked forward with joyful anticipation to the day in which we live; and fired with heavenly and joyful anticipations they have sung and written and prophesied of this our day; but they died without the sight; we are the favored people that God has made choice of to bring about the Latter-day glory; it is left for us to see, participate in and help to roll forward the Latter-day glory, ‘the dispensation of the fullness of times, when God will gather together all things that are in heaven, and all things that are upon the earth, even in one’ [see Ephesians 1:10].” –Joseph Smith