29 And they shall go out from all nations; and they shall not go out in haste, nor go by flight, for I will go before them, saith the Father, and I will be their rearward.
(3 Nephi 21:29, Isaiah 52:12)
It is a lot easier to do a good job when you feel safe, when you can concentrate on the task at hand instead of constantly being on the lookout for danger. In the passage above, the Savior paraphrases a passage from the book of Isaiah, reassuring us that our Father in Heaven will support and protect those who participate in the gathering of Israel.
“I will be their rearward,” says the Father. A “rearward” (or “rear guard” in some translations) is a group of soldiers who are positioned at the rear of an army, protecting the main army from a surprise attack. The Hebrew word for rear guard—mə·’as·sêp̄ (מְאַסֵּ֥ף)—is a variant of the word for “gather”—asaph (אָסַף). For this reason, some translations of this Isaiah passage simply say, “The God of Israel will gather you together.” (See Isaiah 52:12 on biblehub.com.) So, in telling us that He is our rearward, God is simultaneously telling us that He will protect us from being ambushed and that He will help us stay together. (See also the commentary under the heading “What Is the Meaning of the Word Rereward” in “The Last Days and the Millennium (Isaiah 55–66)” Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi (1982), section 18-10.)
When we have confidence that the Lord is with us, we don’t need to work “in haste” or “by flight.” No panic necessary, no sloppiness from anxiety or distractions. Just the steady, thorough work of people who are able to focus and do the job in the right way.
President Henry B. Eyring has reminded us that we have received this same promise of divine help in our day:
As soon as we accept the Lord’s invitation “Walk with me,” the nature of our priesthood service changes. It becomes all at once higher and nobler but also more achievable, because we know that we are not alone. I felt this most powerfully when President Thomas S. Monson laid his hands on my head nine years ago and blessed me as I began my service in my current calling. In that blessing, he recited these words of the Savior: “And whoso receiveth you, there I will be also, for I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).
I have relied upon that promise many times, and I have seen it fulfilled in many ways throughout my 72 years of priesthood service.
Today, I will strive to serve without undue anxiety. I will remember that God has promised to be our “rearward.” He will protect us, so that we need not be unduly concerned about the dangers we may face. He will also assist us as we gather our brothers and sisters to Him. I will choose to work steadily and carefully, not hastily, knowing that God is with me.