As the children of Israel stood at the base of Mount Sinai shortly after escaping from slavery, the Lord reaffirmed their importance to Him:
Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.
Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine:Exodus 19:4-5
The phrase “a peculiar treasure” is a translation of the Hebrew word segullah (סְגֻלָּה), which refers to something that belongs to you and is important to you. There is no single word in English which fully conveys its meaning, so most Bible translations use a phrase to convey the meaning of the word, such as “my treasured possession,” “my own special treasure,” or “my very own people.” (See Exodus 19:5 on biblehub.com.)
To the casual observer, this description may have seemed extravagant for a homeless and disoriented people, still getting over the shock of their deliverance and just organizing themselves for a long journey to an unfamiliar land. Their future was bright, but their current circumstances were not ideal.
The word segullah appears eight times in the Hebrew Bible, usually referring to the children of Israel. The last prophet, Malachi, uses the term as he responds to a group of people who are trying to be obedient, but who don’t feel particularly blessed. “It is vain to serve God,” they say; “and what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the Lord of hosts?” Speaking on behalf of God, Malachi responds, “They shall be mine…in that day when I make up my jewels.” He goes on to say that it will eventually be easy “to discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:13-18).
“Make up my jewels” is an unusual phrase. In the original Hebrew, the phrase is oseh segullah (עֹשֶׂ֣ה סְגֻלָּ֑ה)—”make my peculiar treasure.” Here’s how some other Bible translations render the Lord’s statement in English:
- “On the day when I act…they will be my treasured possession.” (New International Version)
- “They will be my people…on the day when I act in judgment, they will be my own special treasure.” (New Living Translation)
- “They will be mine…on that day when I publicly recognize them and openly declare them to be My own possession.” (Amplified Bible)
When the Savior appeared on the American continent following His death and resurrection, He quoted Malachi’s words, instructing His disciples to write them down. (See 3 Nephi 24:13-18.) That group of people had recently experienced unimaginable destruction and were at the beginning of a rebuilding process. Like the ancient Israelites, they surely also needed to be reminded that they were important to God, that they were His special treasure, His segullah.
The Savior used Malachi’s phrase again in an 1831 revelation to a group of church members gathered in an obscure frontier town in Missouri. One week earlier, He had reassured them that things would be better in the future: “Ye cannot behold with your natural eyes, for the present time, the design of your God concerning those things which shall come hereafter, and the glory which shall follow after much tribulation” (Doctrine and Covenants 58:3). Now, He referenced Malachi’s promise to remind them that they were His treasure, even if they didn’t feel that way:
I, the Lord, rule in the heavens above, and among the armies of the earth; and in the day when I shall make up my jewels, all men shall know what it is that bespeaketh the power of God.Doctrine and Covenants 60:4
Elder D. Todd Christofferson has reminded us:
God sees things in their true perspective, and He shares that perspective with us through His commandments, effectively guiding us around the pitfalls and potholes of mortality toward eternal joy. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “When His commandments teach us, it is in view of eternity; for we are looked upon by God as though we were in eternity; God dwells in eternity, and does not view things as we do.”“The Joy of the Saints,” General Conference, October 2019
Today, I will remember how much God wants to bless His children. Regardless of our current circumstances, we can have confidence that those who follow His commandments are even now His segullah, His prized possession, His jewels.