The prophet Ezekiel received the following symbolic instruction from the Lord:
Moreover, thou son of man, take thee one stick, and write upon it,
For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions:
then take another stick, and write upon it,
For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions:
And join them one to another into one stick;
and they shall become one in thine hand.Ezekiel 37:16-17
Many years earlier, the kingdom of Israel had separated into two kingdoms. The dominant tribe in the northern kingdom was Ephraim (the son of Joseph), and the dominant tribe in the southern kingdom was Judah. By Ezekiel’s time, the northern kingdom had been conquered by the Assyrian Empire, and its tribes had been scattered throughout the empire. The kingdom of Judah had subsequently been conquered by the Babylonian Empire and its people taken as slaves to Babylon.
Other members of these tribes had traveled even further. Lehi, a descendant of Joseph, had escaped the Babylonian captivity by leading his family across the ocean to the American continent.
The kingdoms could hardly be more separated. First, they had separated themselves, then they had been separated by their conquering enemies.
But the Lord wanted Ezekiel to provide a message of unification, of coming together again. So He told Ezekiel to write on two sticks—one for Judah and one for Ephraim—and to hold them together in one hand.
And when the children of thy people shall speak unto thee, saying, Wilt thou not shew us what thou meanest by these?
Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand.
And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes.
And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land:
And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all.Ezekiel 27:18-22
The tribes of Israel would be gathered and would again be unified, just as the two sticks representing the two kingdoms were one in Ezekiel’s hand. What a message of hope for an oppressed and divided people!
In the summer of 1830, the Lord gave Joseph Smith another interpretation of this prophecy. Speaking of Moroni, who had appeared to Joseph as an angel and led him to the plates containing the sacred history of Lehi’s descendants, the Lord said:
Whom I have sent unto you to reveal the Book of Mormon, containing the fulness of my everlasting gospel, to whom I have committed the keys of the record of the stick of EphraimDoctrine and Covenants 27:5
Since Lehi was a descendant of Joseph, the stick of Ephraim can be interpreted as a representation of the Book of Mormon. the Bible would then be represented by the stick of Judah. So Ezekiel’s prophecy refers not only to the unification of God’s people but also of God’s words!
Nephi, the first prophet in the Book of Mormon, prophesied that “the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews.” And he went on to say that God’s people “shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one” (2 Nephi 29:13-14).
Today, I will be grateful for the unity that God can help us achieve: unity among people, and unity of knowledge. I will remember that even when people seem disconnected, they can be reunited. I will also remember that truth can come from many sources. As I connect the truth I receive from different sources, my understanding and perspective will continue to increase.