4 And I command you that ye shall write these sayings after I am gone, that if it so be that my people at Jerusalem, they who have seen me and been with me in my ministry, do not ask the Father in my name, that they may receive a knowledge of you by the Holy Ghost, and also of the other tribes whom they know not of, that these sayings which ye shall write shall be kept and shall be manifested unto the Gentiles, that through the fulness of the Gentiles, the remnant of their seed, who shall be scattered forth upon the face of the earth because of their unbelief, may be brought in, or may be brought to a knowledge of me, their Redeemer.
(3 Nephi 16:4)
Help sometimes comes from unexpected places.
After explaining to a group of people on the American continent that they were the “other sheep” He had spoken of in Jerusalem, the Savior made a remarkable prophecy: In a future time, the descendants of His covenant people would lose their faith, and they would receive the gospel from a group of people who were currently outside of the covenant. He called this future time, “the fulness of the Gentiles.”
Approximately 600 years earlier, Nephi had used that same phrase in explaining to his brothers some of the teachings of their father. They were confused by a metaphor their father had used of an olive tree whose “natural branches” had been broken off and scattered. Nephi explained the prophecy this way:
And now, the thing which our father meaneth concerning the grafting in of the natural branches through the fulness of the Gentiles, is, that in the latter days, when our seed shall have dwindled in unbelief, yea, for the space of many years, and many generations after the Messiah shall be manifested in body unto the children of men, then shall the fulness of the gospel of the Messiah come unto the Gentiles, and from the Gentiles unto the remnant of our seed (1 Nephi 15:13).
The Apostle Paul, who identified himself as “the apostle of the Gentiles,” used this same phrase and this same imagery to caution his converts against self-righteousness. Speaking to non-Jewish believers who might be tempted to criticize Jewish people, the apostle wrote:
Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew (Romans 11:1-2).
Then, comparing these Gentile converts to branches of a wild olive tree, he says:
If some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert grafted in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
Boast not against the branches…for God is able to graft them in again (Romans 11:17-18, 23).
He then counseled them not to be “wise in [their] own conceits” because “blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Romans 11:25). In other words, their unbelief has paved the way for your belief. Therefore, you have the opportunity and the responsibility to share your faith with them:
For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief:
Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy (Romans 11:30-31).
We all have ups and downs in our faith. When some of us are doing better than others, that is not a cause for self-righteousness or arrogance, but rather an opportunity to serve and bless the people who are struggling. God loves all of His children and will bring help from surprising places when we need it most. The idea that spiritual strength could come from the Gentiles, the non-covenant people, was counterintuitive to the children of Israel. But it allowed God to show that all of His children are important and that all of them can contribute to His work.
Today, I will be grateful for the spiritual knowledge I have received. I will recognize that my faith provides me with an opportunity to serve others, not an opportunity for self-righteousness.