About a hundred years before the Babylonian Captivity, Isaiah described how it would end. He named a specific individual who would send the people back to Jerusalem and support them in rebuilding the temple:
Thus saith the Lord, thy redeemer, and he that formed thee from the womb…
That saith of Cyrus, He is my shepherd, and shall perform all my pleasure: even saying to Jerusalem, Thou shalt be built; and to the temple, Thy foundation shall be laid.Isaiah 44:24, 28
Isaiah went on to say that this person named Cyrus would do God’s work even though he was not an Israelite himself:
Thus saith the Lord to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have holden, to subdue nations before him…
For Jacob my servant’s sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me.
I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me:Isaiah 45:1, 4-5
About 100 years later, Cyrus the Great was born. Under his leadership, the Persian Empire expanded to rule much of the Middle East, including subjugating the powerful Babylonian Empire. Just as Isaiah had foreseen, Cyrus decreed the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem:
Thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, All the kingdoms of the earth hath the Lord God of heaven given me; and he hath charged me to build him an house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Who is there among you of all his people? The Lord his God be with him, and let him go up.2 Chronicles 36:23, see also Ezra 1:2-3
How did this happen? As President Henry B. Eyring has reminded us, God’s influence is far-reaching. Alma taught, “The Lord doth grant unto all nations, of their own nation and tongue, to teach his word, yea, in wisdom, all that he seeth fit that they should have” (Alma 29:8). After quoting that promise, President Eyring explained:
God does not rule in nations, but He is mindful of them. He can and does place people in positions of influence who want what is best for the people and who trust in the Lord.
President Eyring recalled a conversation with the mayor of a large city. After speaking with this mayor, President Eyring said, “I saw in that moment that he was one of the honest in heart placed by God in power among His children” (“Trust in God, Then Go and Do,” General Conference, October 2010).
Today, I will be grateful for God’s influence on leaders across the world. I will remember the positive impact good people can have when they treat other people’s beliefs respectfully. I will strive to follow Cyrus’s example of kindness and graciousness toward people who believe differently from me.