History never looks like history when you are living through it. – John W. Gardner
When future historians look back on the 20th and 21st centuries, what will they consider the most important parts of our history? With wars, natural disasters, political ideals, and popular culture influences shaping the life that we are living, it is hard to tell what are the most important parts of our cultural history.
While predicting what will be important to secular historians may be impossible, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints already know what is the most important spiritual movement of our time: the gathering of Israel.
This gathering has occurred throughout recorded history. Ever since the Jewish nation of antiquity was destroyed by invaders, God has worked to bring his covenant people back together. At the same time, he has set up the means by which the blessings promised to his people can reach the whole Earth.
Summarizing the gathering of Israel in a few sentences is a fool’s errand. It is too complex, has too many principles, and occurs on such large a scope that not only is a Reader’s Digest summary impossible, it is also difficult to find personal meaning within the context of the gathering of Israel.
Often times, discourse on the gathering is focused on missionary work, because this is the most obvious way that individual church members can take part in the gathering. When we bring people into the church, we are giving them access to the blessings that have been handed down through generations by God’s anointed prophets. Through missionary efforts, we are extending the reach of God’s covenants (specifically the Abrahamic covenant) to all the world.
But is there more to the gathering than just missionary work? I believe so, and I would like to share some ways that we can find personal meaning in the gathering of Israel outside of missionary work.
As mentioned above, a key aspect of the gathering of Israel is to extend the blessings of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob to all the world. Well, the world is a big place. Each and every one of us is a part of it. So when we talk about gathering Israel, we should also talk about how to gather ourselves.
One of the key ordinances of the gospel is baptism. In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, baptism is the first covenant that a person takes upon them. When a person is baptized, they become members of the church and heirs to the blessings that God has promised his people. This includes the blessings of Abraham:
For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:27-29)
What Paul is telling us here is that baptism gives us access to the covenants that God gave Israel, namely the Abrahamic covenant. Nephi tells us:
For behold, I say unto you that as many of the Gentiles as will repent are the covenant people of the Lord; and as many of the Jews as will not repent shall be cast off; for the Lord covenanteth with none save it be with them that repent and believe in his Son, who is the Holy One of Israel. (2 Nephi 30:2)
Thus we see that the first step of finding personal meaning in the gathering of Israel is to gather ourselves. By taking upon us holy covenants, we become part of the covenant people. We are now considered to be part of the House of Israel. We have gathered ourselves.
Gather your family
Now that we have gathered ourselves we can focus on gathering our family.
Salvation is a family affair. Once we have secured ourselves in the covenants of Israel, we can begin to focus on developing a family unit within the covenant scheme.
The full blessings of the gospel only come about when a sealing is performed with proper priesthood keys in the temple of the Lord. As we read in the Doctrine and Covenants:
And again, verily I say unto you, if a man marry a wife by my word, which is my law, and by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise, by him who is anointed, unto whom I have appointed this power and the keys of this priesthood… it shall be done unto them in all things whatsoever my servant hath put upon them, in time, and through all eternity; and shall be of full force when they are out of the world; and they shall pass by the angels, and the gods, which are set there, to their exaltation and glory in all things, as hath been sealed upon their heads, which glory shall be a fulness and a continuation of the seeds forever and ever. (DC 132:19)
There is a beauty in this doctrine that we can not achieve the fullness of gospel blessings by ourselves. We must accept another person to help us achieve all the blessings and provide a means for our loved ones to take upon them those blessings.
This also extends to children. Eventually, the goal of the gospel is to get children born within the covenant. When a child is born to sealed parents, all the blessings of an eternal family are given to them. Can you imagine a world where all the children born are already heirs of the blessings of Israel? Instead of missionaries having to go throughout the world, family units are already set up, enabling a steady flow of blessings from generation to generation. Maybe that is far off, but we can start by setting up our own family and having the blessings flow through it.
Gather our dead
Finally, we can work on gathering our dead.
I am sure that most church members have heard this famous Joseph Smith quote:
A man who is full of the love of god is not content with blessing his family only, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.
Usually we quote this in the context of missionary work, which is good, but I believe that there is a broader interpretation that we can get from it.
Once we have secured the blessings for ourselves and our families, we can not be content. We must also do missionary work as well as temple work for the dead. Millions of people have lived on the Earth, and very few have had access to gospel blessings. Through the temples, we can begin to bless the human race, as Joseph Smith said.
When we do work for the dead in the temples, we are traversing time and space to reach out to people that we have never met. It is one of the most selfless acts that we can do. We can bless people from all over the world who lived in distant times and places. In this way, God has provided a means for us to bind together the human race, and gather our brothers and sisters who have passed on.
The gathering of Israel is important and complex, but as we do these three things (as well as missionary work) we can find personal meaning in this great historical event. We can take part in the great epic story of God’s chosen people are save ourselves, our families and our kindred dead for time and all eternity.