The gathering of Israel sounds like a massive family reunion, but it’s actually something quite different.
Israel was scattered thousands of years ago. They have intermarried with other nations, and their descendants are everywhere. Furthermore, as Nephi clarified, “As many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord” (2 Nephi 30:2; see also 1 Nephi 14:1-2). And the Savior affirmed the same principle during His ministry on the American continent: “The Gentiles,” He said, “if they will not harden their hearts…may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel” (3 Nephi 21:6).
President Russell M. Nelson said, “Thus the very name of Israel refers to a person who is willing to let God prevail in his or her life.” President Nelson concluded, “The Lord is gathering those who are willing to let God prevail in their lives” (“Let God Prevail,” General Conference, October 2020).
If the gathering of Israel is more about finding those who are willing to follow God and less about finding people with a specific ancestral heritage, you would expect the gathered people to be diverse. Jeremiah’s prophecies of the gathering support this conclusion. Speaking on behalf of the Lord the prophet said:
Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord; for I am married unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion:
And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.Jeremiah 3:14-15
Elder Ronald A. Rasband thought of these verses as he interacted with church members in Africa:
By assignment from President Russell M. Nelson, in February of this year I dedicated the Durban South Africa Temple. It was a day I will remember all my life. I was with members who have come to the gospel as Jeremiah prophesied long ago—“one of a city, and two of a family.” The doctrine of Jesus Christ unites all of us—around the world—as sons and daughters of God, as brothers and sisters in the gospel. Regardless of how we look or dress, we are one people with a Father in Heaven whose plan from the beginning was and is for His family to be reunited by making and keeping sacred temple covenants.“Fulfillment of Prophecy,” General Conference, April 2020
Today, I will be grateful for the diversity which is inherent in the gathering of Israel. I will gratefully participate in the gathering, welcoming all who accept invitations to draw closer to the Savior, regardless of their backgrounds. I will remember that God loves all of His children and that people who are willing to follow Him come from many different backgrounds and cultures.