My Come, Follow Me studies this week covered some of the Isaiah chapters in the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ. Most of the Isiah chapters “deal with the coming of the Redeemer” according to the Bible Dictionary. However, Isaiah also wrote about two other major themes – the scattering and gathering of Israel.
It is easy to understand why Isaiah chose to write about the Redeemer and the gathering of Israel because the two themes are closely related. Ancient Israel sinned and rejected God, and God scattered them for doing so. However, the Atonement of Jesus Christ provides the way for all mankind to repent and to be reconciled to God. By doing so, everyone can be gathered to God spiritually and physically.
Heavenly Father made a covenant with Abraham, and He promised several distinct blessings in that covenant. The Lord promised Abraham that His descendants would have the gospel and the priesthood and that through them all the families on the earth would be blessed (see Abraham 2:9-11). This covenant was renewed with Abraham’s son Isaac (see Genesis 26:3-5), with Isaac’s son Jacob (see Genesis 28:12-15), and with Jacob’s descendants, the children of Israel.
The children of Israel forfeited the blessings when they sinned against God. When they would not return to God despite His warnings, they were expelled from their promised lands and scattered throughout the world. Even though Heavenly Father was upset with the children of Israel, He never forgot them or the promise that He had made to their forefathers. God promised that the day would come when they would be taught the gospel and gathered home to their promised lands.
The gathering is taking place today and has been since the Book of Mormon was published. President Spencer W. Kimball (1895-1985) explained that we comply with the law of the gathering when we accept the gospel covenant.
Now, the gathering of Israel consists of joining the true church and their coming to a knowledge of the true God…. Any person, therefore, who has accepted the restored gospel, and who now seeks to worship the Lord in his own tongue and with the Saints in the nations where he lives, has complied with the law of the gathering of Israel and is heir to all of the blessings promised the Saints in these last days (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball , 439).
In the early days of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, new converts were encouraged to gather to Zion, meaning the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ. Thousands of converts left their native lands and traveled to the United States to gather with the Saints wherever the headquarters was found.
Today members throughout the world are encouraged to remain in their native lands and to build up the Church of Jesus Christ in every land. By doing so, they are promised that they will receive blessings personally and bring blessings to the Church of Jesus Christ. Elder Douglas L. Callister of the Seventy discussed the gathering in the last days.
Our present gathering is primarily spiritual, not geographic Christ declared that in the latter-days He would “establish [His] church,” “establish [His] people,” and “establish … among them [His] Zion” (3 Nephi 21:22; 3 Nephi 20:21; 3 Nephi 21:1). As He establishes His Church in our day, people can be taught the gospel and be “brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God” (3 Nephi 20:13) without leaving their homes. In contrast to the pronouncements during the early days of the restored Church, our leaders have decreed that now the gathering should take place within each land and among every tongue. Our need to be physically near large numbers of Saints is less than it was a century ago because Church magazines and satellite transmissions bridge distance and time, creating a sense of oneness through the entire Church. All have access to the same keys, ordinances, doctrine, and spiritual gifts” (“Book of Mormon Principles: The Gathering of the Lord’s Faithful,” Ensign, Octo. 2004, 59).
Another reason why members of the Church of Jesus Christ are encouraged to remain in their home countries is that temples are being built throughout the world. There is no longer a necessity for members to travel long distances to obtain temple blessings because temples are now dotting the earth and becoming ever more numerous.
President Russell M. Nelson spoke on the topic of the gathering of Israel in the General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ held the first weekend in October 2020. He has “studied the gathering, prayed about it, feasted upon every related scripture, and asked the Lord to increase [his] understanding” for the past 36 years. Here are a few paragraphs from his conference talk.
For centuries, prophets have foretold this gathering, and it is happening right now! As an essential prelude to the Second Coming of the Lord, it is the most important work in the world!
This premillennial gathering is an individual saga of expanding faith and spiritual courage for millions of people. And as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or “latter-day covenant Israel,” we have been charged to assist the Lord with this pivotal work.
When we speak of gathering Israel on both sides of the veil, we are referring, of course, to missionary, temple, and family history work. We are also referring to building faith and testimony in the hearts of those with whom we live, work, and serve. Anytime we do anything that helps anyone – on either side of the veil – to make and keep their covenants with God we are helping to gather Israel….
The gospel net to gather scattered Israel is expansive. There is room for each person who will fully embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ. Each convert becomes one of God’s covenant children, whether by birth or by adoption. Each becomes a full heir to all that God has promised the faithful children of Israel!
As he concluded his address, President Nelson encourage us to add the following tasks to our regular scripture study for the next six months: “make a list of all that the Lord has promised He will do for covenant Israel.” He promised that we would be “astounded” at the number of promises. He urged us to “ponder” the promises, “talk about them with [our] family and friends,” and then to watch as they are “fulfilled in [our] own lives.”
I know that we are living in the last days because the signs given by the Lord are all around us. As children of Israel, we have received great promises as well as great responsibilities to help in the gathering that is taking place all around us. We live in the time foretold by all the prophets and have been promised many blessings. May we live to receive all the promised blessings and help to bring them to many others.