When Lehi taught his family about the scattering of Israel, he reassured them that the Lord would gather them again:
And after the house of Israel should be scattered they should be gathered together again; or, in fine, after the Gentiles had received the fulness of the Gospel, the natural branches of the olive tree, or the remnants of the house of Israel, should be grafted in, or come to the knowledge of the true Messiah, their Lord and their Redeemer (1 Nephi 10:14).
What does it mean for the descendants of Israel to be gathered again?
The word “gather” comes from the Old English word gadrian, which means to unite, to agree, or to assemble (Online Etymology Dictionary). You can gather with other people by moving physically closer to them, or as Lehi teaches above, you can gather by becoming unified in thought and in purpose.
“To the lands of their inheritance”
Lehi’s son Nephi saw in a vision the members of the church in our day. He said they were “scattered upon all the face of the earth,” but the power of God descended upon them, and “they were armed with righteousness and with the power of God in great glory” (1 Nephi 14:14).
Nephi taught that the house of Israel would be “gathered together to the lands of their inheritance” (1 Nephi 22:12). This sounds like a prophecy that the descendants of Israel will physically relocate to the land of Israel. But the passage says “lands,” not “land.”
Nephi’s brother Jacob taught that the descendants of Israel will “be gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise” (2 Nephi 9:2). In reference to this verse, President Russell M. Nelson explained:
The place of gathering for Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; the place of gathering for Nigerian Saints is in Nigeria; the place of gathering for Korean Saints is in Korea; and so forth. Zion is “the pure in heart.” Zion is wherever righteous Saints are. Publications, communications, and congregations are now such that nearly all members have access to the doctrines, keys, ordinances, and blessings of the gospel, regardless of their location (“The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” General Conference, October 2006).
“To the knowledge of the Lord their God”
Lehi indicated in the first passage above that the gathering would consist of the descendants of Israel coming to a true knowledge of God. When the resurrected Savior visited the descendants of Lehi about 600 years later, He also taught them about the gathering of Israel in similar terms:
And then shall the remnants, which shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the earth, be gathered in from the east and from the west, and from the south and from the north; and they shall be brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God, who hath redeemed them….
And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you (3 Nephi 20:13, 22).
The Book of Mormon plays a vital role in this gathering process. During His visit to the American continent, the Savior said:
I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place—that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion;
And behold, this is the thing which I will give unto you for a sign—for verily I say unto you that when these things which I declare unto you…shall be made known unto the Gentiles,… it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel (3 Nephi 21:1-3, 7).
In other words, when the words which the Savior spoke to those people are published (in the Book of Mormon), that is a sign that the work of gathering has begun.
President Nelson has taught:
The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign to the entire world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill covenants He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob….
The Book of Mormon is central to this work. It declares the doctrine of the gathering. It causes people to learn about Jesus Christ, to believe His gospel, and to join His Church. In fact, if there were no Book of Mormon, the promised gathering of Israel would not occur (“The Gathering of Scattered Israel,” General Conference, October 2006).
“On both sides of the veil”
The work of gathering is the work of salvation. Ultimately, our goal is to bring people closer to each other and closer to God, which is what God wants for His children.
President Nelson explained to the youth of the Church:
Anytime you do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—take a step toward making covenants with God and receiving their essential baptismal and temple ordinances, you are helping to gather Israel. It is as simple as that (“Hope of Israel,” Worldwide Youth Devotional, 3 June 2018).
Therefore, the gathering of Israel includes:
- Sharing the gospel to people who aren’t familiar with it
- Strengthening and supporting people when they accept the gospel
- Helping people who are struggling with their faith
- Performing ordinances in the temple on behalf of our deceased ancestors
- Teaching one another
Today, I will be grateful for the opportunities I have to participate in the gathering of Israel. I will remember that the gathering is more about unity and spiritual closeness than it is about physical location. I will find ways to strengthen and uplift the people around me, in order to help them grow closer to God and to each other.