By Jessica Byers and Kaigan Bigler
The term “gathering of Israel” has frequently been used over the last few years in talks and devotionals offered by general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, especially President Russell M. Nelson.
“(The) gathering (of Israel) is the most important thing taking place on earth today,” President Nelson said. He added that without the Book of Mormon, “the promised gathering of Israel would not occur.”
But, what is the gathering of Israel? And what role does the Book of Mormon play in this gathering?
The gathering of Israel
To understand the gathering of Israel, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant refers to the promise Jehovah made to Abraham that his posterity would receive the ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ and that Christ would come through Abraham’s lineage.
The blessings of the priesthood and temple ordinances promised to Abraham are also extended to all who choose to follow Jesus Christ and His teachings. The gathering of Israel takes place when individuals choose to accept the gospel and make covenants with God.
Throughout the Old Testament, the Lord continued to call prophets and renew the same covenant and promises that had been made with Abraham. After the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the deaths of the apostles, many unauthorized changes corrupted the gospel, church organization and priesthood authority, which Christ had established during His earthly ministry.
Acts 3:21 prophesied that the day would come when it would be necessary for a “restitution of all things,” so that the blessings of the fulness of the gospel of Jesus Christ could be extended to all.
The role of the Book of Mormon in the gathering of Israel
Just as the Old Testament taught about the gathering of Israel, the Book of Mormon also teaches key principles related to this gathering: that Heavenly Father desires that all of His children have the opportunity to receive these blessings.
In 3 Nephi 21:1-7, the Book of Mormon is cited as the sign to the world that this gathering has commenced. It also expounds on the principles and commandments those who choose to enter into this covenantal relationship must follow in order to receive blessings.
In 1823, Moroni, a prophet from the Book of Mormon, appeared to Joseph Smith, Jr. and explained the role that Joseph would play in the translation of the Book of Mormon. He also shared how those events would aid in the promised gathering of Israel.
Dr. Casey Griffiths, a religion professor at Brigham Young University, shared about the importance of the Book of Mormon in the gathering of Israel. “The Book of Mormon, according to Jesus Christ, is the sign that the gathering has commenced,” he said.
The introduction to the Book of Mormon teaches that its “crowning event” is the personal ministry of Jesus Christ to the Nephite civilization on the American continent. The Book of Mormon contains a detailed record of this visit and the things Christ taught while He was there.
BYU religion professor Jared Halverson explained how the Book of Mormon emphasizes Christ’s central role in the gathering of Israel. “The Book of Mormon’s gift to the conversation is that it emphasizes the role of Jesus Christ and His restored church in the process of the gathering,” he said.
The gathering today
The gathering of Israel cannot be had without the scattering of Israel, which is a literal and figurative term. While the Book of Mormon is central to the story of Israel being scattered, starting with a family leaving Jerusalem and traveling to a Promised Land, Halverson said individuals have their own experiences of being scattered as well.
“If we’ve ever felt cast off, if we’ve ever felt separated from God, then that’s an individual scattering on our part,” Halverson said.
He explained that the Book of Mormon’s message to gather Israel starts on the title page, and that the Book of Mormon is “the reassuring voice of the Lord [telling] us ‘you’re not cast off, that you may feel scattered, but I promise to gather you back’…[it’s] such an incredible witness of the Savior’s mercy, his tender love and his constant invitation and efforts to bring us back home.”
Griffiths further explained how the gathering of Israel is something very personal, which every member can experience. He shared that ultimately the gathering of Israel is when individuals “know who they are and they know what their identity is.”
The gathering of Israel is also taking place through missionary and temple work, reaching out to the children of God on both sides of the veil of mortality.
President Thomas and Sister Ana Coburn, New York and Pennsylvania historic site mission leaders, shared their witness of the gathering of Israel in Central and South America alone. After serving individual missions in Colombia over 50 years ago and a term as mission leaders in Argentina 30 years ago, the Coburns saw Latin America go from zero temples to 46 currently operating temples.
Sister Coburn, a convert to the Church at 16 years old, went on her mission without being endowed because of the absence of temples. Having reflected on this, Sister Coburn said, “It’s amazing to see the growth of the Church in such a short time.”
This growth in Latin America demonstrates just one example of the gathering of Israel that is happening throughout the world through the growth of the Church and the accessibility of more members to temples, enabling them to perform the work on behalf of those on the other side of the veil.
“A Marvelous Work and a Wonder“
The Daily Universe’s “A Marvelous Work and a Wonder” commemorates the coming forth of the Book of Mormon and the commencement of the modern-day gathering of Israel, which began with Moroni appearing to Joseph Smith, Jr. 200 years ago. The Book of Mormon plays a central role in the gathering of Israel and in the lives of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Through the Book of Mormon, individuals learn that they are children of a loving Heavenly Father who is mindful of them and the power that comes through Jesus Christ and the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel.
The following stories highlight the ways that the gathering of Israel and the Book of Mormon have influenced the lives of individuals in the Palmyra area, which is where the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints first began.