Editor's note: The following story appeared in our special LDS Conference magazine, which offers a preview of the upcoming 191st Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was delivered as part of Saturday's weekend edition of the Daily Herald. The theme of this magazine edition is "Gathering Israel." We will be running the magazine stories online this week in the leadup to conference.
The notion of the gathering of Israel is as old as the ancient Bible prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Before the gathering, though, there had to be a scattering — and that is where this important story begins.
President Russell M. Nelson, president of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has said, “The gathering of Israel is the most important thing taking place on the earth today. Nothing else compares in magnitude, nothing else compares in importance, nothing else compares in majesty.”
During the October 2020 Semiannual General Conference, Nelson invited members of the church to spend the next six months on studying about the gathering of Israel. This publication on the gathering, and the articles in it, is an invitation to understand the church’s beliefs in the gathering of Israel and why it is so important to them. There is much more that could be written on the subject, but this is a glimpse into one of the doctrines of the church.
Like the prophet Abraham, members of the church believe they are tied to God and become the direct heirs of the same blessings Abraham was given by God through covenants or, in other words, Godly promises.
It also is true that Jesus Christ was a descendent of Abraham. The church believes Jesus Christ was the Jehovah of the Old Testament and the one with whom Abraham covenanted.
The name of the church states that members are devoted to Christ as their Savior, the Son of God, the Redeemer of mankind.
The gathering of his sheep, as he told his apostles of old, is the church membership’s greatest duty as they prepare for his second coming.
Various scriptures from the Old Testament to LDS Church scriptures, including the Doctrine and Covenants and the Pearl of Great Price, refer to Abraham receiving the higher priesthood and other covenants. Because of this, the LDS Church teaches that Abraham received a promise that all of the blessings attached to these covenants would be offered to his posterity.
The LDS Church calls this the Abrahamic Covenant. Members of the church believe the restoration of this covenant was why the restoration of the gospel was needed in the last days. For through it, all the nations of the earth are blessed, according to church doctrine.
It is part of Abraham’s posterity, the children of Jacob, whose name God changed to Israel, who did not follow their father’s or grandfather’s teachings and they were “scattered among the heathen nations.”
Over hundreds of years, the children of Israel were either held in bondage or ruled by kings. It was after the death of King Solomon that Israel revolted and divided into tribes.
God’s children, the house of Israel were spurning him and turning the hearts and minds from him, according to the scriptures.
In 721 B.C., the northern kingdom was taken captive by the Assyrians ending what the world knew of the 10 tribes. They later dispersed more to the north and tribes were lost among the gentile nations, according to scripture.
The tribe of Judah was intact and the Levites had already been scattered among all the tribes as they were the ones called to officiate in the priesthood for all Israel.
The southern kingdom was the tribe of Judah. It is in all literal sense the country of Israel today. It is the place to which the Jews are to gather home.
The Levites later joined with Judah in the southern kingdom. The two tribes also were dispersed by A.D. 70 when the Romans had conquered them, either killing them or driving them out.
For 2,700 years, the lost 10 tribes have been scattered, and have lost their origin and identity. Now, with the restoration of this knowledge and the Abrahamic Covenant, the time has come to gather Israel home.
The ways of gathering both the living and the dead are numerous, according to LDS doctrine.
Through missionary work, temple work for the living and vicariously for the dead, and family history work, the church is using everything at its disposal, including social media, to reach out and find those lost from the tribes of Israel who are ready to listen and return to God’s covenant ways.
In speaking about the 2021 youth theme, Nelson noted that part of that says they are “laying a foundation of a great work.” During a worldwide youth devotional, Nelson invited youth to a special calling.
“I am inviting every young woman and every young man between the ages of 12 and 18 in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to enlist in the youth battalion of the Lord to help gather Israel,” Nelson said. He challenged LDS youth to participate in what he called “the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on the earth today.”
Among the missionaries of the church is a popular hymn that sums up what missionaries (the men are called Elders) will do to help gather Israel. The first verse of the hymn written by Cyrus H. Whellock (1813-1894) with music by Thomas H. Bayly (1797-1879):
“Ye Elders of Israel come join now with me,
and seek out the righteous where e’re they may be.
On desert, on mountain, on land or on sea,
and bring them to Zion the pure and the free.”
The members of the church have been admonished by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf to pray — not only for the missionaries to find the elect, but also to pray daily with all their heart that they will find those who will come and see, come and help, and come and stay. Keep the full-time missionaries in the loop. They are like angels, ready to help.
The same is true for those who help with family history. Just a month ago more than a million people participated virtually in the annual RootsTech conference where numerous keynote and guest lecturers teach about how to find ancestors through research.
Temples are being dedicated, built and announced continuously. These temples bring families together under the same covenants that God made with Abraham. There are currently 150 finished and will go back into a complete workload under a phased program during the current COVID-19 pandemic. There are 19 under construction and 20 temples that have been announced and planned for. That is a total of 189 temples. If tradition holds this April conference, it is anticipated Nelson could announce additional locations where temples will be built.