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Saturday, April 17, 2021

Why Does the Lord Seek to Gather His People?

            My Come, Follow Me lesson for this week came from Doctrine and Covenants 37-40. The early members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints connected the Church with other words, such as cause, kingdom, Zion, and work. They loved the restore doctrine, but many of them wanted to dedicate their lives to something greater. However, many of them were challenged by a commandment that came in 1830.

            Doctrine and Covenants 37 is a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon, near Fayette, New York, in December 1830. This is the first commandment to gather to central place in this dispensation.

1 Behold, I say unto you that it is not expedient in me that ye should translate any more [the inspired translation of the Bible] until ye shall go to the Ohio, and this because of the enemy and for your sakes.

2 And again, I say unto you that ye shall not go until ye have preached my gospel in those parts, and have strengthened up the church whithersoever it is found, and more especially in Colesville; for, behold, they pray unto me in much faith.

3 And again, a commandment I give unto the church, that it is expedient in me that they should assemble together at the Ohio, against the time that my servant Oliver Cowdery shall return unto them.

4 Behold, here is wisdom, and let every man choose for himself until I come. Even so. Amen.

            On January 2, 1831, the Saints held the Church’s third conference, and Joseph Smith announced that the Lord had commanded the Saints to gather to Ohio. The announcement came as a surprise to many of them, and they wanted to know more about the commandment. The Prophet Joseph Smith inquired of the Lord during the conference and received Doctrine and Covenants 38 in the presence of the congregation. The Lord revealed His reasons for the commandment to gather to Ohio, and He also explained the promised blessings to those who were obedient.

Most of the Saints accepted the Lord’s reasons and began preparing for the move to Ohio. The Prophet Joseph, his wife, Emma, and other members left New York for Ohio at the end of January 1831. They traveled by sleigh and arrived in Kirtland, Ohio, in early February. They awaited the return of Oliver Cowdery and other missionaries who had been sent to teach the Lamanites living on the western border of Missouri. Meanwhile, they met with some members who were converted before the missionaries left Ohio.

One of the new converts was Sidney Rigdon, who was converted when he heard the preaching of the missionaries. Even though the missionaries were in Ohio for only a few weeks, they baptized more than 100 converts in the Kirtland area, including Sidney Rigdon who became a great support to Joseph Smith.

One of the principles taught in Doctrine and Covenants 38 is that of unity. The Lord said in verse 27, “… I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” President Henry B. Eyring of the First Presidency explained how we can become one with the people around us.

We know from experience that joy comes when we are blessed with unity. We yearn, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, for that joy which we once had with Him in the life before this one. His desire is to grant us that sacred wish for unity out of His love for us.

He cannot grant it to us as individuals. The joy of unity He wants so much to give us is not solitary. We must seek it and qualify for it with others. It is not surprising then that God urges us to gather so that He can bless us. He wants us to gather into families. He has established classes, wards, and branches and commanded us to meet together often. In those gatherings, which God has designed for us, lies our great opportunity. We can pray and work for the unity that will bring us joy and multiply our power to serve” (“Our Hearts Knit as One,” Ensign, Nov. 2008, 69).

            The Lord gathers His people to give them several blessings. One of the blessings for gathering is protection from enemies. Another blessing for gathering is to build temples to make eternal covenants with God. While the Saints lived in Kirtland, Ohio, they built a temple. When they gathered to Nauvoo, Illinois, they build a temple where many of the Saints were endowed with power from on high before they made the thousand-mile journey to the Salt Lake Valley.

Once in the Salt Lake Valley, they began building temples. There are pioneer-era temples in the Utah cities of St. George, Manti, Logan, and Salt Lake City as well as Idaho Fall (Idaho), Mesa (Arizona), and Cardston, (Alberta, Canada). Later temples were built in Laie (Hawaii), London (England), Los Angeles (California), and Bern (Switzerland). The number of temples has slowly grown. There are now 168 dedicated temples (160 currently operating; and 8 previously dedicated, but closed for renovation), 35 under construction, and 48 announced (not yet under construction), for a total of 251 temples.

The Lord desires to bless His people with the blessings of eternity. Therefore, He commands them to gather, have unity, and to build temples. There are no longer commands to gather to central place but to gather in stakes of Zion. New converts are counseled to remain in their native lands and to build up Zion in their home countries.

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