By the time Section 29 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given, the fledgling Church was just over five months old. Rumors and false claims were circulating faster than convert numbers. What a strategic time for the adversary of all righteousness to attack the young flock and scatter them as fast as he could—to try to stop this little flock from growing.  The Church only had less than 100 members.  Can we even imagine this? Most who are listening to this podcast are from a ward or branch that is bigger than that. My own elder’s quorum here in Alpine, Utah has 175 members! But, as we have said in the past, out of small things proceedeth that which is great. The Lord knows how to work with small numbers!

Scot

By the time Section 29 of the Doctrine and Covenants was given, the fledgling Church was just over five months old. Rumors and false claims were circulating faster than convert numbers. What a strategic time for the adversary of all righteousness to attack the young flock and scatter them as fast as he could—to try to stop this little flock from growing.  The Church only had less than 100 members.  Can we even imagine this? Most who are listening to this podcast are from a ward or branch that is bigger than that. My own elder’s quorum here in Alpine, Utah has 175 members! But, as we have said in the past, out of small things proceedeth that which is great. The Lord knows how to work with small numbers!

Maurine

Welcome dear friends to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. We are Scot and Maurine Proctor and this week’s lesson covers section 29 of the Doctrine and Covenants and is entitled: “Jesus Christ will Gather His People.” In our day and time, we hear the word “gather” and we immediately think: President Russell M. Nelson! He has been focused on studying the gathering of Israel for his entire ministry. The topic has intrigued him. He said: “I have studied the gathering, prayed about it, feasted upon every related scripture, and asked the Lord to increase my understanding.” (Nelson, Russell M., Let God Prevail, General Conference, October 2020) What a pattern President Nelson has shown us for our own daily devotions: to study, to pray about, to feast upon and then ask Lord to increase our own understanding.

Scot

This is the pattern I also see in the Prophet Joseph. Think of the young Church, barely 24 weeks old, and new converts are coming into the fold from all kinds of traditions, teachings and in most cases, false ideas about the gospel and the scriptures.

Do you know the pattern of the Prophet Joseph’s personal daily devotions? Joseph opened the day with fervent prayer, sought the Lord’s guidance and help, prayed for the things that were needful for his family. He devoted much time to carefully studying the scriptures, to let the words of the Lord penetrate his heart and soul. At noon or lunchtime, the Prophet and Emma would again kneel in prayer and ask the Lord for guidance and an acceptance of their gratitude for their blessings. By evening, the Prophet and Emma (and often other family members or guests) would join in a hymn of praise, kneeling prayers of gratitude and more discussion of the things of the Lord.

Maurine

And of course, the Prophet and Emma offered prayers over the food at every meal and constantly talked of the things of the Spirit. The prophet was so needed to receive revelation on just about every topic and just about every question, he was constantly trying to stay in tune so that He could hear the word of the Lord. President Nelson uses the same pattern as the Prophet Joseph who studied things out and prayed for answers. He feasted upon the word of the Lord and then asked the Lord to increase his own understanding.

That pattern was so incredibly important for Joseph–and it is for us.

This was true, for example, during the translation of the Book of Mormon as well as throughout his ministry. We’ve mentioned this story before, but it bears repeating. David Whitmer said, “[Joseph] could not translate unless he was humble and possessed the right feelings towards every one. To illustrate, so you can see,” David continued, “One morning when he was getting ready to continue the translation, something went wrong about the house and he was put out about it. Something that Emma…had done. Oliver and I went upstairs, and Joseph came up soon after to continue the translation, but he could not do anything.”

Scot

David continued: “He could not translate a single syllable. He went down stairs, out into the orchard and made supplication to the Lord; [now pay attention to this] was gone about an hour—came back to the house, asked Emma’s forgiveness and then came up stairs where we were and the translation went on all right. He could do nothing save he was humble and faithful.” (Cook, Lyndon W., David Whitmer Interviews, A Restoration Witness, Grandin Book Company, Orem Utah, 1991, p. 86)

That pattern is so important—this applies to our studies in the gospel and in our relationships in our family and with our friends. Have you seen that in your own life? Have you ever had some small or large altercation with your spouse or with a child and then went on trying to study the scriptures, or to pray, or to prepare a lesson or a talk and you just sit there struggling in your own strength or weakness—devoid of help from the Spirit? That is my least favorite place to be—left in my own strength to try to do anything that requires inspiration or revelation. It just doesn’t work. And it requires humility to follow the correct pattern to obtain the Spirit of the Lord.

Maurine

Why hold anger or grudges or grievances anyway? What is the purpose? Are you trying to prove something? Are you trying to convict someone you love in your own personal court of law? Are you trying to prove a point—like to make sure that the other person knows you are right? Is this a fruitful venture? Our point is this: If we want to have a flow of revelation in our own lives, if we want to be able to obtain inspiration when we need it, if we want to feel and find answers to our prayers, we have to keep ourselves in a position to do so. The Holy Ghost is easily offended by pride, spite, revenge, anger, hostility, contention, grudges, blaming, self-excusing behavior, unkind thoughts and many other shallow things on our part. The Holy Ghost is promised to us who have entered into the covenant of baptism to become our constant companion, but only under conditions of righteousness.  This is how the Prophet Joseph had to live all the time in order to receive revelation and give guidance and direction, from the Lord, to individuals and to the Church.

Scot

And Maurine, you and I have certainly noticed something in our work.  We have this unique situation in our marriage—we are together 24/7 and have been our entire marriage. Oh, yes, I know, I do take out the trash and so we are occasionally separated, but we are, for the most part together all the time. And that means we are professionally together as well. We have a business together. We have Meridian Magazine together. We do the Podcast together. We lead tours together. We do firesides together. And because of this, we’ve observed that we have to be one. We have to be on the same page. And, as we are, great things happen.

Maurine

That’s right. As we are one, ideas flow to our minds in a continuous and steady stream. Inspiration comes to us all the more readily. When we have a lecture to prepare, we can start sharing ideas and our minds are expanded, our hearts are joyful, there is no territory or pride. There is no stepping on each other’s toes. It reminds me of Alma’s teachings on faith:

“…it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me.” (Alma 32:28)

I remember a number of times, early in our marriage, when we had some kind of financial crisis we had to deal with. Money can be a real divider if you add to the mix fear, worry, distrust, impatience or blame. I remember a specific time when we needed $5,000 and we needed it in a very short time frame. We prayed and prayed about it.

Scot

And I remember hoping that we would just get a check in the mail from some company or client who felt to send us that exact amount. I had the faith that the Lord could do that, but on that occasion, there were apparently no prospects in the works.

Maurine

But I do remember that the more we prayed about it and the more we stayed calm and were one about this particular challenge, even with all the immediate pressure that we felt, the more ideas began to flow to us. That’s how the Lord usually works with us—He sends ideas, wonderful ideas that apply to our work, or the creation of a new product, or people we need to contact to do a certain thing. The ideas flowed—and with that flow there was a sense of joy and peace and calm. That has been our experience over and over and over again.

I have also found that if I become preoccupied with tasks, worried or fearful, or even just entertain thoughts of discouragement, my soul seems to shrink. I can’t feel the Spirit. I am less.

Scot

The Prophet Joseph had an amazing ability to live in calm and peace and joy in the midst of mobs, or danger or crisis or difficult circumstances. He was an instrument of the Lord to receive revelation when revelation was needed.  And in Section 29, given just a few days prior to a conference of the Church in late September of 1830, we see a revelation given which is full of doctrine pertinent to the last days.

This revelation has very little historical context given except that it was given at the Peter and Mary Whitmer home in Fayette, New York in the presence of six elders. Those elders were most likely Samuel Harrison Smith, Oliver Cowdery, David Whitmer, John Whitmer, Peter Whitmer, Jr. and Thomas B. Marsh. 

It is significant in the very first verse that the Lord asserts who He is in no uncertain terms.

1 Listen to the voice of Jesus Christ, your Redeemer, the Great I Am, whose arm of mercy hath atoned for your sins.

Here Maurine, He asserts one of His most sacred names, I Am, or the Great I Am, making sure that His people in this day and age understand that He is Jehovah, the same Who is the God of the Old Testament.

Maurine

That’s right. When Moses was called by the Lord to lead the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt, the Lord made it very clear to Moses who He was:

“I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” (Exodus 3:6)

But Moses was concerned about something. The children of Israel had been in bondage in the Egyptian society and culture for many generations and hundreds of years. They were a monotheistic people living in a polytheistic culture with a complex pantheon of gods. The Egyptians had created for themselves not less than 400 gods to worship. Each of these made-up, idol gods had a name and a purpose or a stewardship—the god of the sun, the god of the underworld, the god of war and hunting, the god of chaos, the god of craftsmen and builders and on and on.

Moses had a legitimate question:

13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them?

14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Scot

So, we see that the Great I Am called Moses to gather the children of Israel out of Egypt or the world—and Moses is the great archetype prophet of gathering.  Moses was to gather the children of Israel.  And now, that same God of the Old Testament, Jehovah, Jesus Christ, the Great I Am, is now calling for the gathering of his people through this revelation in section 29. And this is a clue in our studies, the Great I Am called Moses to gather His people and in our day the Great I Am called Joseph Smith and the elders of Israel to gather His people. Look in verse 2:

2 Who will gather his people even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, even as many as will hearken to my voice and humble themselves before me, and call upon me in mighty prayer.

Our God is a God of gathering.  He gathers His children.

And, Maurine, I can’t help but repeat a story here that I told in a New Testament podcast:

Years ago, I was running the Middle Fork of the Salmon River in Idaho with my brothers and some friends.  This is one of the most beautiful wilderness areas in the country. In one of the rare calmer sections of the river there was a beautiful old ranch.  It was still a working ranch and we could see there had been a fire just recently—probably that morning.  We pulled off the river and went to take a look.  A couple of farm outbuildings had been burned and a little barnyard area was scorched.  On the ground in the middle of all this burned over area there was a large hen.  Her feathers were somewhat scorched and I thought she was dead.  It was a sad sight indeed.  As I approached her, she moved a little bit, but stayed in place and got up a little as if to prepare for this stranger’s approach.  Underneath her, completely protected and unscathed by the fire were 12 little tiny chicks, complete unscathed by the fire and safe and sound.  They were under her protective care and every one of them had survived the fire without even a feather melted or singed or any soot on their feathers.  It was quite a site. I’ve never forgotten it.

Maurine

I love that image as we consider how this Lord of the gathering will bring us under His protection and keep us safe from the fires and tribulations and trials of these extremely difficult and tumultuous times. And, in case we missed it, he showed us a pattern at the end of that verse 2, for those who desire that mother-hen-like protection:

…even as many as will

  1. Hearken to my voice and
  2. Humble themselves before me, and
  3. Call upon me in mighty prayer.

There’s another pattern we can follow just as we learned from President Nelson and the Prophet Joseph. We are to hearken unto the Lord’s voice—that means to truly listen and obey His voice whether by His own mouth or by the mouth of His servants the Prophets, it is the same.

Scot

And we are to humble ourselves before the Lord. Humility brings great blessings from the heavens and in fact can open the heavens. And we are to call upon God in mighty prayer. What is mighty prayer? I think we may have to admit that many of our rote, routine, morning and evening prayers might not fall into the category of mighty. We might ask ourselves, have we ever had a mighty prayer in our lives?

As I interviewed our precious ward members in our young single adult ward at BYU, I used to ask them three questions: How’s your scripture study? How are your prayers? And, how is your temple attendance? It was interesting how many of these hard-working, over-stressed, amazing young adults had pretty paltry prayers. I would often hear something like this: “I try to say a little prayer before I leave for school in the morning, but my night prayers, well, let’s just say, I don’t remember much of what I say because I’m so exhausted.” Is that kind of pattern ever the case in our own lives?

Maurine

Enos certainly gave full price for a mighty prayer after spending all day and into the night letting his voice be heard—that it reached the heavens. (See Enos 1:1-6) Joseph Smith’s prayer in the grove that beautiful spring morning was a simple, mighty prayer. (See Joseph Smith History 1:14-17) Nephi’s desire to know all the things that his father had seen produced a mighty prayer. (See 1 Nephi 10:17-19; 11:1-2) But as we assess our own, sometimes common lives, when do we come to the Lord in mighty prayer?

We told you many podcasts ago about our daughter’s accident of falling in Mexico and how it had us so deeply concerned for her life, her well-being, her future. With twenty bleeds on the brain, a subdural hematoma and the mid-line of her brain shifted, I wanted so much to give a mighty prayer. I was desperate to connect with heaven. I wanted to be eloquent and faithful and ask for blessings to cover every nuance of our situation, but the words were choked in my throat. I could hardly pray at all except this one word, “Help,” cried over and over again and directed to our Father in Heaven in the name of His Son. 

That was a mighty prayer and we were given mighty answers. Our daughter emerged from this accident without any longtime impairment except a loss of smell. Very soon she was on a road to recovery. Three different doctors looked at her brain scans and said, “These are injuries of a very grave nature, and the patient I see here does not match these scans.” She was a walking miracle.

Scot

Mighty prayers may be, on occasion, one word, but they issue from people who are fully immersed in their quest to find God. If we are casual in our study or our prayer, or hearkening to the voice of the Lord or humbling ourselves before Him, or if other things are the constant focus of our lives, we will be left in the shallows and far away from mighty prayers.

Now, just a footnote here:  Joseph Smith taught us in the 3rd lecture on faith

2 …that three things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation.

3. First, the idea that he actually exists.

4. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes.

5. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will. For without an acquaintance with these three important facts, the faith of every rational being must be imperfect and unproductive; but with this understanding it can become perfect and fruitful, abounding in righteousness, unto the praise and glory of God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Lectures on Faith 3:2-5, emphasis added)

I think sometimes we have a false idea about who the Lord is—instead of a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. One of the attributes we need to understand about God is that He cannot lie.

Maurine

That’s right and absolutely knowing that He cannot lie, we can read verse 5 of section 29 with a great deal of hope:

Lift up your hearts and be glad, for I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom.

Let’s take Him at His word. He commands and invites us, no matter what our situation, disposition or mental state to “lift up our hearts and be glad.” This encouragement comes from a God, even Immanuel—God with us—who knows the mortal experience, who understands our conditions, our trials, our challenges—and He still tells us to lift up our hearts and be glad. And why?

He gives us the answer right there:

For I am in your midst, and am your advocate with the Father; and it is his good will to give you the kingdom.

Scot

Wait—“I am in your midst.” God cannot lie and He tells us that He is among us. That is SO encouraging. If I really knew and trusted this fact that He is in our midst, I could truly exercise great faith and I don’t have to be afraid, no matter what the situation. And reminding us that He, Jesus Christ, is our advocate with the Father should give us absolute confidence and thrill us to the very core. And He assures us that it is the Father’s good will to give us the kingdom. This gives us a correct idea of his, the Father’s, character, perfections, and attributes and should fill us with great joy.

Now, we go back to verse 7:

And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts;

Here is “the gathering” again. Maurine, what is the gathering all about?

Maurine

From the beginning of time there has been a time of gathering and then there are times of scattering. In the last days, the gathering of the elect of God is really for one great purpose. The Lord gathers His people so that they can build a temple to make eternal covenants with Him and, by and by, through obedience, be exalted with Him in the celestial kingdom. We gather to build a temple. We build a temple to make covenants. We make covenants so that we can be on the right path to come back into His presence.

Now, if you want to know if “the gathering” is happening in our day, just take a look at the number of temples that have been built, are being built or are in various stages of planning.

Scot

Our current Prophet, Russell M. Nelson, was sustained and set apart as President of the Church, just 38 months ago (from the time of this podcast). Do you realize that in this short time he has announced 49 new temples! And you remember that some of these temples have been announced in the most diverse places like:

Bengaluru, India;
A major city yet to be determined in Russia;
Phnom Penh, Cambodia;

Praia, Cape Verde (islands off the coast of Africa);
Budapest, Hungary;

Freetown, Sierra Leone;
Lumbumbashi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo;

Two new temples in Nigeria;
Dubai, United Arab Emirates on the Arabian Peninsula;

Tarawa, Kiribati;
3 new temples in the Philippines;
7 new temples in South America;
5 new temples in Central America; and,
7 new temples in Utah!

And 16 other temples, all in 38 months!

Maurine

Watch for the building of temples and you will see that the gathering is taking place. President Nelson taught:  Anytime we do anything that helps anyone—on either side of the veil—to make and keep their covenants with God, we are helping to gather Israel.

So, if you are helping with indexing, you are helping to gather Israel.

If you are working on your own personal history, you are helping to gather Israel.

If you are doing missionary work or are sending children or grandchildren on missions, you are helping to gather Israel.

If you are teaching a primary class and helping a child understand the covenant of baptism, you are helping to gather Israel.

If you are researching your ancestors and building your family tree, you are helping to gather Israel.

If you are having family home evening and teaching your children or your grandchildren to prepare to go to the temple someday, you are helping to gather Israel.

If you are preparing names to go to the temple, you are helping to gather Israel.

The list goes on and on.

Scot

And President Nelson taught the youth of the Church:

“My dear extraordinary youth, you were sent to earth at this precise time, the most crucial time in the history of the world, to help gather Israel. There is nothing happening on this earth right now that is more important than that. There is nothing of greater consequence. Absolutely nothing. This gathering should mean everything to you. This is the mission for which you were sent to earth.” (Face-to-Face, June 3, 2018, Russell M. and Wendy W. Nelson)

It’s interesting in Section 29, if you look at the verses in sequence, that the gathering of His elect immediately precedes His Second Coming and the ushering in of the Millennium. We are certainly in the midst of this greatest work, the gathering. How long it will take, we do not know.

Maurine

Let’s jump to verse 36 for a moment and look at a little-known fact. 

36 And it came to pass that Adam, being tempted of the devil—for, behold, the devil was before Adam, for he rebelled against me, saying, Give me thine honor, which is my power; and also a third part of the hosts of heaven turned he away from me because of their agency;

37 And they were thrust down, and thus came the devil and his angels; (D&C 29:36-37, emphasis added)

Did you notice that the devil, who is Lucifer, was before Adam, who is Michael. That means that Lucifer was, in the pre-mortal world, an older son than Michael. Yet, because of his faithfulness, Michael was chosen, with Eve as his co-equal companion, to come down to earth and be the first parents. Lucifer, because of his rebellion, even though he was before Michael, was rejected and cast or thrust down and became the devil. And he took a third part of the hosts of heaven with him.

Scot

Lucifer was not willing to make eternal covenants with the Father and follow His Plan.

Dr. Robert J. Matthews taught: 

“Covenant-making and covenant people have been in the Lord’s plan since the very beginning, even before the world was formed. Several scriptures teach us that mankind was taught the gospel of Jesus Christ while yet in the spirit world before birth into mortality. Even before the earth was formed, the Father’s plan of salvation was explained to us. Paul wrote to Titus, his fellow laborer in the gospel, that God, who cannot lie, promised eternal life even “before the world began” (Titus 1:2). That such promises were made to man in pre-mortal times is also stated in D&C 132:63. We also believe that in pre-mortal life, “the sons [and daughters] of God shouted for joy” at the prospect of eternal life (Job 38:7), and that some of those spirits were foreordained to perform certain work in mortality (see Abr. 3:22–23; Alma 13:3–7; D&C 138:53–56). We also read that a third part of the spirits were cast out with Lucifer because they would not accept the plan of salvation (see D&C 29:36–37; Moses 4:1–4). We are informed in D&C 132:5–11 that all of the promises and covenants of the gospel were instituted by the Father “before the foundation of the world.” Therefore, we must conclude that gospel covenants have existed from the beginning and that anyone who has accepted the gospel at any time has had a covenant relationship with God.” (Matthews, Robert J., Our Covenants with the Lord, Ensign, December 1980)

Maurine

And I love how President Nelson referred to us recently as “latter-day covenant Israel.”  Our Heavenly Father has the perfect plan, the great plan of happiness or the plan of salvation for His children. And we learn in verse 39:

39 And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet.

There is great purpose in Satan’s being the divider, the tempter, the adversary, the evil one, the great deceiver—so that we can be agents, exercise our moral agency in choosing to follow the Savior and our Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness. The great war in heaven was a war of ideas and at stake was our moral agency.

And we have a choice in our mortal sojourn, as we have learned in the Book of Mormon:

“[We] are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men [and that is Jesus Christ], or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil.” (2 Nephi 2:27)

Scot

And this choice is critical for our eternal happiness, for the doctrine is clear:

“For behold, my blood shall not cleanse them if they hear me not.” (D&C 29:17)

And Jesus Christ “shall take upon him the transgressions of those who believe on his name; and they are they that shall have eternal life, and salvation cometh to none else. Therefore the wicked remain as though there had been no redemption made, except it be the loosing of the bands of death… (see Alma 11:40-41)

“For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; but if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.” (D&C 19:16-17)

“Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered.” (2 Nephi 2:7)

Maurine

The resurrection is a gift to all who ever come to this earth no matter how they live their lives, but the atoning blood of Jesus Christ to cleanse us from our sins in conditional. It is for those who hearken to and obey the voice of the Lord and who keep His commandments in all things.

President Nelson taught:

“…the very name of Israel refers to a person who is willing to let God prevail in his or her life. That concept stirs my soul!

“The word willing is crucial to this interpretation of Israel. We all have our agency. We can choose to be of Israel, or not. We can choose to let God prevail in our lives, or not. We can choose to let God be the most powerful influence in our lives, or not.

“…it takes both faith and courage to let God prevail. It takes persistent, rigorous spiritual work to repent and to put off the natural man through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. It takes consistent, daily effort to develop personal habits to study the gospel, to learn more about Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, and to seek and respond to personal revelation.” End of quote. (Nelson, Russell M., Let God Prevail, General Conference, October 2020)

Our prayer is that we will all be willing to be gathered in to the fold of Christ, to hear and heed His words and follow His teachings.

Scot

That’s all for today. We’ve loved being with you. Next week will be a special lesson centered on Easter entitled: “I Am He Who Liveth, I am He Who Was Slain.” Thanks for joining us today. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the beautiful music that accompanies this podcast and thanks to Mariah Proctor Scoresby who produced this show. Blessings to you and see you next time.