2 Turn, all ye Gentiles, from your wicked ways; and repent of your evil doings, of your lyings and deceivings, and of your whoredoms, and of your secret abominations, and your idolatries, and of your murders, and your priestcrafts, and your envyings, and your strifes, and from all your wickedness and abominations, and come unto me, and be baptized in my name, that ye may receive a remission of your sins, and be filled with the Holy Ghost, that ye may be numbered with my people who are of the house of Israel.
(3 Nephi 30:2)
What is a Gentile? The dictionary says it’s a person who’s not Jewish, or more broadly, someone who’s not part of your religious community (Oxford English Dictionary). The term descends from the Latin word gentiles, meaning “persons belonging to the same family,” but specifically some family other than yours (non-Romans) (Online Etymology Dictionary). Most references to Gentiles in the Old Testament are translations of the Hebrew word goy (גּוֹי), which is translated in other passages as “nations” or “heathen.” In the New Testament, it’s generally a translation of the Greek word ethnos (ἔθνος), which is the source of the word “ethnic,” and which refers to a “band of people living together,” such as a nation or a tribe. In both cases, the connotation is that these people are outsiders, foreigners, or strangers.
The word appears 163 times in the Book of Mormon, including three appearances on the Title Page alone. This in contrast with just 37 appearances in the entire Old Testament and 117 in the New Testament. More importantly, the tone of the Book of Mormon toward the Gentiles is markedly different. The Bible speaks about the Gentiles, but the Book of Mormon speaks to the Gentiles directly, inviting them to come unto Christ and receive every blessing offered to any other group of people. This is consistent with the Book of Mormon’s message that “Jesus is the Christ,… manifesting Himself unto all nations.”
The prophet Nephi declared that personal conversion, not lineage, is the issue when speaking of God’s people:
For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel (2 Nephi 30:2).
And as Mormon declares in the passage above, God invites all Gentiles–everyone who has not entered a covenant relationship with Him–to repent of their sins, be baptized, and receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. By so doing, they become part of the house of Israel.
Today, I will remember that God loves all of His children, from every nation. As the Book of Mormon testifies, He reaches out to everyone, inviting them to turn to Him and to become His people.