The restoration begins with an amalgamation of old and new. The only things removed are the bare essentials that are required to begin the transplanting or grafting. “Pluck not the wild branches from the trees, save it be those which are most bitter; and in them ye shall graft according to that which I have said.” (5: 57.) The restoration was not a wholesale affair at the start. There was and were a lot of wild, unredeemed and unredeemable participants in the work underway. There is a great deal of “loftiness” and “bitter fruit” left to be trimmed away.
As becomes apparent from the incidents in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith’s death was as much a result of internal conspiracies to get him into the hands of the Illinois civil authorities as it was the result of outside fear and hatred. He could have left on June 22nd and never returned. When he lamented “if my life is of no value to my friends, it is of no value to me” he clarified the reason for his return. The accusation that he was a false shepherd because he was “fleeing” when “the flock was in danger” was enough to bring him back, surrender to arrest and incarceration, and ultimately be killed. It wasn’t the mob that made the accusations which brought it about. It was the saints, his inner circle, his trusted friends.
So when we reflect on how the restoration was interrupted in its beginning states by the death of Joseph, we cannot lay the blame entirely on the mob that ultimately killed him. It began inside the church itself. If we are partly to blame, as I believe the record shows, then killing Joseph was not just an act of violence against the church, but also an act of treachery from within the church. Such things generally provoke a reaction from heaven which requires a third and fourth generation to pass away before the Lord of the vineyard begins anew to cultivate, water, dig and dung His tree again. That would make it about now when the Lord’s work would resume.
The work required to begin the restoration was not to produce fruit. It was to make it possible for fruit again to return to the vineyard. To that end, the work to “trim up the branches” and then to “pluck from the trees those branches which are ripened, that must perish” will be an ongoing process once the work begins. (5: 58.) There will be trauma. There will be casting away. There will be those who are “plucked” or removed. The patience required will endure for generations, as the Lord rids the tree of the many wild, unfruitful and unworthy growth found in the undisciplined, wild tree.
The Lord’s committment and understanding allows Him to foresee the possiblity it will yet result in worthy fruit. He does this “that, perhaps, the roots thereof may take strength because of their goodness; and because of the change of the branches, that the good may overcome the evil.” (5: 59.) It is still a “perhaps” proposition. The tree has its own independence. It will need to respond.
Joseph Smith was attempting to explain some of this process when he taught: “The Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile, though it may not have half as much visible effect upon the body; for as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene; and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence; while the effect of the Holy Ghost upon a Gentile, is to purge out the old blood, and make him actually of the seed of Abraham. That man that has none of the blood of Abraham (naturally) must have a new creation by the Holy Ghost. In such a case, there may be more of a powerful effect upon the body, and visible to the eye, than upon an Israelite, while the Israelite at first might be far before the Gentile in pure intelligence.” (TPJS, p. 149-150.) There is so much Joseph spoke about we no longer understand, but in the case of restoring the potential for “fruit” to return, the blood of Jacob matters. Even there, each individual is free to respond to the Lord.
There may be “goodness” left in the individual from his birthright, but even the literal seed of Abraham must do the works of Abraham before they are able to produce fruit.