“For the Law Shall Go Forth from Zion,” Ensign, May 1972, 105
He who visits Palestine today cannot but marvel at what is taking place—desert wastes beginning to blossom as the rose; springs of water literally rising out of arid places, carried hither in water lines from distant sources; new cities arising where a generation ago there was but drifting sand; age-old cities fringed with new high-rise construction; forests newly planted on a thousand hills.
The visitor is surprised at the extent of new agricultural projects, industry, highways, power plants, and factories. There is an aggressiveness everywhere that gives one a sense of both uplift and foreboding. The cost of such aggressiveness is great—the hatred of the Arab world. It is felt wherever one goes in the surrounding Arab nations. It seethes in the poverty-stricken camps of displaced former occupants of Palestinian cities. And it is not without cause.
Under the steadily increasing immigration of Jews, Palestine has become Jewish. Even in cities where the Jewish population is still in the minority, the controlling power and influence is Jewish. The thousands of Arabs who remain in Palestine have, in the main, accepted the inevitable. They are more prosperous than before. They find employment at higher wages than they have ever known.
Prosperity has a way of smoothing over old animosities. But not so among those who fled into adjacent lands during the war periods. These are in idle and abject poverty, most of them crowded into refugee camps of the lowest order, feeding on bitterness. While Israel’s borders are open to them to return, they rarely do so, and to remain away becomes tantamount in their minds to being driven out without recourse. War is ruthless at best, and the wars between Jew and Arab have so far brought bitter reprisals from both sides of the conflict.
One would expect the surrounding Arab nations with their one hundred million inhabitants to crush a tiny nation of three million, and some crushing may surely occur. But just as surely, Israel will survive, for the Lord has spoken it.
Throughout scripture the word of the Lord runs like a golden thread, bright and clear in the writings of the prophets, disappearing at times, then reappearing in the words of other spokesmen for the Almighty: Israel was to be scattered throughout the gentile nations, but when the day of the gentiles should be fulfilled, Israel would be gathered again, the ten tribes of Israel to a new Zion and the remnants of Judah to Jerusalem. In the dispensation of the fulness of times, “out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem” (Isa. 2:3), proclaimed Isaiah eight centuries before Christ came in the flesh upon the earth.
The word of Isaiah and other prophets pertaining to the scattering of Israel and Judah has long since been literally fulfilled. It is a matter of history. Events are transpiring that indicate that the fulfillment of the latter part of these prophecies is under way.
From the very day of the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ again upon the earth, April 6, 1830, the Latter-day Saints have looked forward to the establishing of a new Zion on the American continent and to the return of the Jews to Jerusalem. There was an expectation that these events were to happen soon; and only a little over a year had elapsed when the Prophet Joseph Smith, under the inspiration of the Almighty, journeyed a thousand miles to the west and, in July 1831, standing on a site that is known as Independence, Missouri, pronounced this the center of the new Zion and marked the spot for a great temple to be erected thereon.
There followed a rush of the faithful to the place of promise. There was an expectation of an early construction and an early appearance of the Savior to his temple. But it was not to be at that time. A “Zion people,” a people “pure in heart,” were not ready. The Saints were driven out, and for many the dream faded. After the repeated hopes and promises of restoration to their homes did not seem to materialize, many apostatized. But the word of the Lord has not been changed, and the faithful have not lost hope. For some there has been a reappraisal of the time of fulfillment.
The Gospels record that while Jesus was at the temple grounds in Jerusalem, and his disciples were pointing out to him the marvel of the temple buildings, he said to them: “See ye not all these things? … There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matt. 24:1–2.)
At the Mount of Olives his disciples spoke to him privately, saying: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?
“And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
“For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.” (Matt. 24:3–5.)
And he went on to tell them that Jerusalem would be trodden down by the gentiles and her people scattered, but he gave them the assurance that at a period designated as the “latter days,” when the times of the gentile nations should be fulfilled, they would be gathered again and restored to the heritage promised by the Lord to their father Abraham.
As early as November 3, 1831, the Lord declared through the Prophet Joseph Smith that the time was at hand for the gathering of the Jews to begin:
“Send forth the elders of my church unto the nations which are afar off; unto the islands of the sea; send forth unto foreign lands; call upon all nations, first upon the Gentiles, and then upon the Jews.
“And let them who be of Judah flee unto Jerusalem, unto the mountains of the Lord’s house.” (D&C 133:8, 13.)
The Book of Mormon contains important pronouncements of the ancient prophet Jacob concerning the Jews. Speaking of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians, he said: “… and they who shall not be destroyed shall be scattered among all nations.
“But behold, thus saith the Lord God: When the day cometh that they shall believe in me, that I am Christ, then have I covenanted with their fathers that they shall be restored in the flesh, upon the earth, unto the lands of their inheritance.
“And it shall come to pass that they shall be gathered in from their long dispersion, from the isles of the sea, and from the four parts of the earth. …” (2 Ne. 10:6–8.)
Nephi went further, to speak of the time of the fulfillment:
“And now, I would prophesy somewhat more concerning the Jews and the Gentiles. For after the book of which I have spoken [Book of Mormon] shall come forth, and be written unto the Gentiles, and sealed up again unto the Lord, there shall be many which shall believe the words which are written; and they shall carry them forth unto the remnant of our seed.
“And it shall come to pass that the Jews which are scattered also shall begin to believe in Christ; and they shall begin to gather in upon the face of the land. …” (2 Ne. 30:3, 7.)
At the time when the Book of Mormon was first published, these prophecies seemed virtually impossible of fulfillment. There were fewer than 12,000 Jews in all of the land of Palestine, and the very name of Christ was forbidden in Jewish home and synagogue. Those few Jews living in Palestine were denied the privilege of citizenship or the right to hold title to land and were greatly mistreated by the Turkish government, which ruled Palestine.
There was no doubt in the mind of the Prophet Joseph or of his associates and successors as to the fulfillment of God’s word. In the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, March 27, 1836, the Prophet said:
“We therefore ask thee to have mercy upon the children of Jacob, that Jerusalem, from this hour, may begin to be redeemed;
“And the yoke of bondage may begin to be broken off from the House of David;
“And the children of Judah may begin to return to the lands which thou didst give to Abraham, their father.” (D&C 109:62–64.)
On April 3 of that same year Moses appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple and conferred upon them the keys for the gathering of Israel.
In 1840 the Prophet Joseph Smith, in pursuance of this work, sent Orson Hyde of the Council of the Twelve to dedicate the land of Palestine for the return of the Jews and to bless the Jews with a disposition to return to their land and to their city. Returning from his mission, Elder Hyde wrote from Alexandria, Egypt, a remarkable prediction; he said in substance that England would be the leading national power in befriending Judah and would aid in the reestablishment of his people in Palestine.
No Zionist movement had yet started among the Jews in any part of the earth. The British consular reports of 1856 record that at the time there were fewer than 15,000 Jews in all Palestine. Twenty years later the numbers had increased to 65,000.
In 1873 Wilford Woodruff, then president of the Council of the Twelve, uttered an important prophecy in the general conference of the Church:
“As I have been reading to you today, the Jews have got to gather to their own land in unbelief. They will go and rebuild Jerusalem and their temple. They will take their gold and silver from the nations and will gather to the Holy Land, and when they have done this and rebuilt their city, the Gentiles, in fulfillment of the words of Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and other prophets, will go up against Jerusalem to battle and to take a spoil and a prey; and then, when they have taken one-half of Jerusalem captive and distressed the Jews for the last time on the earth, their Great Deliverer, Shiloh, will come. They do not believe in Jesus of Nazareth now, nor ever will until he comes and sets his foot on Mount Olivet and it cleaves in twain, one part going towards the east, and the other towards the west. Then, when they behold the wounds in his hands and in his feet, they will say, ‘Where did you get them?’ And he will reply, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, your Shiloh, him whom you crucified.’ Then for the first time will the eyes of Judah be opened. They will remain in unbelief until that day.” (Journal of Discourses, vol. 15, pp. 277–78.)
In the eighty-ninth semiannual conference of the Church, October 1918, Elder David O. McKay centered his address upon the return of the Jews to Palestine. Among other things, he said:
“Twenty-three hundred years ago the prophet looking down through the vista of time saw this day. He saw Israel scattered among all nations. He saw them become a hiss and a by-word, but added, ‘nevertheless, when the day cometh that they no more turn aside their hearts against the Holy One of Israel’—note he does not say when they accept him as their Redeemer, nor necessarily declare to the world that he was the Messiah to come to their people—the prophet words it most significantly; vis, ‘When they no more turn aside their hearts against the Redeemer, then in that day will he remember the covenants that he made to their fathers.’ And he adds, ‘… isn’t it a significant thing that today there is a change in the hearts of the descendants of Israel in regard to the Holy One of Israel?’” (Conference Report, October 1918, p. 45.)
The determination of the Jews to return to Palestine and to establish their own nation is phenomenal. Elder Ezra Taft Benson told of visiting refugees in Europe after the close of World War II:
“We were impressed almost to tears as we visited some of these wanderers, these persecuted and driven sons of our Heavenly Father, to find how doggedly they were determined to return to Palestine. Ofttimes, as they would come into relief agencies to get temporary help, we would ask them why they did not settle nearby. Sometimes they were invited to stay. But they had one desire, and that was to return to the land of their fathers.
“I recall that a survey was made by UNRRA, United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, in which they interviewed 3,629 Jews in displaced persons’ camps to determine what they would like to do if they were given their freedom to move and locate as they pleased. Of this number, 3,619 indicated that they would like to go back to Palestine. … This desire—which is almost a passion—was so great that it was as strong as life itself.” (Conference Report, April 1950, p. 73.)
What of the future? We can rest assured that the word of the Lord will be fulfilled. Israel will survive, and the “word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem” again as it did in the days when Jesus of Nazareth walked the cobbled streets of that ancient city. And it is fitting that this be so, for it was from this land of Palestine that the word of God went forth of old to give light to the world. Here the Savior of mankind was born in the flesh; here he taught his gospel of salvation; here he voluntarily gave his life upon the cross and fulfilled his mission of atonement for the sins of men; and here he arose triumphantly from the grave, the promise of eternal life. From the Mount of Olives he ascended into the heavens, and the astonished disciples heard the angel prophesy his later return. Yes, the word of God has gone forth from Jerusalem and will again, as the prophets have foretold.