The beginning and ending of a gospel epoch or order.1 Dispensations have their bounds. Beforehand, the prophets give, through prophecy, a limit on the things that are to come. When the prophesied events have unfolded and the measure has been met, then one Dispensation comes to an end while another opens.2 “It is in the order of heavenly things that God should always send a new Dispensation into the world when men have apostatized from the truth and lost the priesthood….”3 Every Dispensation of the Gospel is the “last Dispensation” — until it fails. Then another is sent, and it is the “last” — until it fails. This will continue for so long as man continues to fail.4 When a Dispensation of the Gospel is conferred on mankind through a Dispensation head (like Enoch, Moses, Joseph Smith), then those who live in that Dispensation are obligated to honor the ordinances laid down through the Dispensation head by the Lord. For so long as the ordinances remain unchanged, the ordinances are effective. When, however, the ordinances are changed without the Lord’s approval (the critical question), they are broken. At that point, the cure is for the Lord to bestow a new Dispensation in which a new covenant is made available.5 The Lord sends ministers with a commission to transition from one Dispensation of the Gospel to another.6 A new Dispensation occurs when some lost (or never completed) components of the work need to be dispensed to mankind, either anew or for the first time.7 In Abraham we have an example of…an isolated, faithful individual who honored the Fathers and was doing everything that he could in his day but for whom there was no existing possibility for having it occur. God was able to fix that problem for that individual, not in order to establish a new Dispensation in which salvation proceeds with the gathering of a people, and a making of a people. But it was a dispensation to that individual for purposes of trying to call others to repentance.8 When God gives a man a Dispensation from heaven, there is a labor to be done in His vineyard. The authority to complete the labor is implicit with the assignment given by God. When someone receives a Dispensation and discharges the assignment with honor, he holds the keys, owns the rights, enjoys the honors, and possesses the Dispensation of that assignment to all eternity. A new Dispensation is founded on knowledge from those who went before who all [declare] their dispensations, their rights, their keys, their honors, their majesty and glory, and the Powers of their Priesthood; giving line upon line, precept upon precept; endowing them with knowledge, even here a little and there a little (T&C 157 : 31) to the new Dispensation.9 Though this could be interpreted to suggest that every assignment from the Lord could be a “dispensation,” the broader statement clarifies that there is one dispensation supported in turn by many assignments. Man may have received power and authority to complete the labor assigned, and the inspiration from God to complete the assignment may have been provided to them, but that alone does not constitute a dispensation. For example, Nephi was sent to retrieve the plates of brass, but that was not a dispensation; it was an assignment, a request from the Lord. Many assignments are needed to fulfill a dispensation. All who complete an assignment with honor hold the keys of that work. But a dispensation is better understood as “restoring and making overall progression of the covenants, promises, and prophecies to advance and vindicate God’s work to reclaim the world from apostasy.”10
1 “Joseph Smith Papers 2,” Oct. 4, 2016, blog post.
2 “3 Nephi 12 : 46–47,” Oct. 17, 2010, blog post.
4 “Miscellaneous,” July 21, 2012, blog post.
5 “A Question About ‘Seeds of Doubt,’” July 13, 2012, blog post.
6 “3 Nephi 12 : 17–18,” Oct. 12, 2010, blog post.
7 “Follow-up Question,” Jan. 3, 2012, blog post.
8 “Cursed : Denied Priesthood,” Jan. 07, 2018, Sandy, UT, 23, transcript.
9 “The Holy Order,” Oct. 29, 2017, 2, paper.
10 Email to Scripture Committee, Oct. 3, 2018.