“Book of Mormon Principles: The Gathering of the Lord’s Faithful,” Ensign, Oct. 2004, 58–59
It is as exciting to live in the day of a prophecy’s fulfillment as it is to live in the hour of its utterance. This is the season in which God is baring His arm to gather covenant Israel. Of the many prophecies pertaining to the latter days, the one most carefully requiring our service is the command to gather the Lord’s elect on both sides of the veil.
The Book of Mormon is a great prophetic text that helps us understand both the purposes and the processes of Israel’s gathering. Book of Mormon peoples, aware of their Israelite ancestry, knew they were part of the prophesied scattering and rejoiced in promises of an eventual gathering. The resurrected Christ in the Book of Mormon gave significant attention to the latter-day gathering, speaking at length on the gathering of Israel, especially in 3 Nephi 20–22.
Our present gathering is primarily spiritual, not geographic. Christ declared that in the latter-days He would “establish [His] church,” “establish [His] people,” and “establish … among them [His] Zion” (3 Ne. 21:22; 3 Ne. 20:21; 3 Ne. 21:1). As He establishes His Church in our day, people can be taught the gospel and be “brought to the knowledge of the Lord their God” (3 Ne. 20:13) without leaving their homes. In contrast to the pronouncements during the early days of the restored Church, our leaders have decreed that now the gathering should take place within each land and among every tongue. Our need to be physically near large numbers of Saints is less than it was a century ago because Church magazines and satellite transmissions bridge distance and time, creating a sense of oneness throughout the entire Church. All have access to the same keys, ordinances, doctrine, and spiritual gifts.
The Savior’s lamentation that He was not able to gather Israel “as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings” (Matt. 23:37; see also 3 Ne. 10:4–6) was an allusion to the protective influence of covenants, ordinances, commandments, and true doctrine, all of which ancient Israel and its leaders rejected. Today’s spiritual gathering constitutes an acceptance of all those things and the protection they bring as souls come unto Christ and become one with His elect family.
Immediately following Christ’s Crucifixion and Resurrection, safety partly depended upon where one lived, as prophecies of great destruction rested upon Jerusalem and its inhabitants (see JS—M 1:12–20; Matt. 24:15–22). In the last days, however, security will not depend as much upon where one lives as on how one lives. Covenant-keeping Saints in every land have equal claim to the protection of the Lord.
In speaking of the gathering of Israel, one must also include the elect of God from other generations for whom temple and family history work is undertaken. The elect of God are those who hear the voice of the Lord and “harden not their hearts” (D&C 29:7). We gather temple records, family group sheets, pedigrees, and histories, all to facilitate the real gathering, which is of souls.
The enemy of righteousness tries to thwart the gathering, yet the Lord has declared that in the last days, “No weapon that is formed against [my kingdom] shall prosper” (3 Ne. 22:17). He emphasizes the intervention of heavenly powers: “For in that day … shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them” (3 Ne. 21:9).
In this day of fulfillment of prophecy, it is a great privilege to be numbered among the gatherers and the gathered. How blessed we are to be able to witness the gathering of Israel in our day.