Deconstructing the Sacred Narrative of the Restoration


Restoration, Joseph Smith, Mormonism, Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day saints


In the conclusion to his insightful article exploring the development of Joseph Smith’s First Vision, James Allen asked, “Can we fully understand our heritage without understanding the gradual development of ideas, and the use of those ideas, in our history?”[1] The answer to Allen’s rhetorical question is a resounding no. As Latter-day Saints, we need to understand our history and theology as well as how they developed in order to understand our own heritage, our own story, our own narrative. Our sacred narrative is an intricate part of many believers’ experiences. In a recent evangelical publication aimed at helping non-Mormons understand their “Mormon neighbors,” Ross Anderson insightfully explained that “Mormonism is a faith defined not by theological formulations but by sacred narratives. . . . The two most important stories that define how Latter-day Saints understand their place in the universe are the story of the Restoration of true Christianity and the story of humanity’s potential for divine exaltation.”[2] Anderson’s statement is useful because it recognizes that, at its core, Mormonism often resists being defined by creed or tenets of faith in favor of sacred narratives that reflect the experiential nature of the faith, such as a premortal existence, Joseph Smith’s First Vision, the pioneer trek west, and even personal conversion accounts.

Original Publication Citation

“Deconstructing the Sacred Narrative of the Restoration,” in An Eye of Faith: Essays in Honor of Richard O. Cowan, eds. Kenneth L. Alford and Richard E. Bennett (Provo: Religious Studies Center, 2015), 235-256. (Peer Reviewed)

Document Type

Peer-Reviewed Article

Publication Date



Religious Studies Center




Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Assistant Professor