To read more from Daniel, visit his blog: Sic Et Non.
I’d like to treat the question of whether Orson Hyde’s mission to the Near East was a success. The answer, I think, should by now be completely beyond dispute. It is clear that many portions of Elder Hyde’s inspired prayer have at least begun to be fulfilled.
- Judah ‘s scattered remnants have indeed begun to gather back to Palestine, according to the predictions of the holy prophets. (Nowhere in scripture are we told what number of Jews need to return to the Holy Land, nor are we told what percentage of the world’s Jews need to be involved.) Large ships have returned them from virtually every corner of the earth.
- Many foreign governments have gone to unusual lengths to assist Israel and to aid in the emigration of Jews to Palestine.
- Israeli ingenuity and industry have reclaimed large tracts of desert land and restored them to fertility.
- Jerusalem has been built up again. It is a beautiful city, with modern buildings, superb hospitals, a great university, notable museums, a significant philharmonic orchestra, and a vibrant commercial and cultural life. At the same time, much of its ancient and medieval character has been preserved. And, although many nations (until recently including the United States) do not officially recognize its status, Jerusalem functions today as the capital of a Jewish state.
But it is just as clear that certain portions of Elder Hyde’s prayer remain yet to be fulfilled.
- No divinely authorized temple has yet been built in Jerusalem.
- No Davidic king presides over the gathered Jews.
- The returning Jews have not, for the most part, come home with “a spirit of grace and supplication.” Many of them are thoroughly secular, Jews only in a cultural sense. Their unbelief has not yet been conquered and subdued. From the perspective of the restored gospel, their hearts remain stony.
So where do we stand? I think we are in the middle of a process that has been underway for some time but that still has a considerable distance to go. The Lord is not in the same kind of hurry that we anxious mortals often are. He has time. I think that early Latter- day Saints imagined that the events previous to the Second Coming of the Lord would happen quickly, but they have not. That is not to say that those events have not commenced or that the Lord is not acting. Clearly, he is. It seems to be the plain teaching of the Book of Mormon that the true gathering of the Jews will commence after, and not before, they come to a knowledge of the true gospel.
And after they have hardened their hearts and stiffened their necks against the Holy One of Israel, behold, the judgments of the Holy One of Israel shall come upon them. And the day cometh that they shall be smitten and afflicted. Wherefore… they shall be scattered, and smitten, and hated; nevertheless, the Lord will be merciful unto them, that when they shall come to the knowledge of their Redeemer, they shall be gathered together again to the lands of their inheritance.
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 I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father. And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fulness of my gospel shall be preached unto them; and they shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name … Then will the Father gather them together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance.
Does this mean that the remarkable return of hundreds of thousands of Jews from around the world to Palestine is not, in the fullest sense, the promised gathering? I think it does. Does it mean that it has nothing to do with the gathering? No, I think a positive answer to that question is inconceivable. And the scriptures do not commit us to it. Rather, they clearly teach that unbelieving—that is, non-Christian—Jews will be upon the land of Palestine when the Lord returns.
And then shall the Lord set his foot upon this mount, and it shall cleave in twain… And then shall the Jews look upon me and say: What are these wounds in thine hands and in thy feet? Then shall they know that I am the Lord; for I will say unto them: These wounds are the wounds with which I was wounded in the house of my friends. I am he who was lifted up. I am Jesus that was crucified. I am the Son of God. And then shall they weep because of their iniquities; then shall they lament because they persecuted their king.
In 1875, Elder Orson Pratt offered the clarification that some of the Jews gathering to Palestine would have already accepted the gospel. “Some of them,” he said,
will believe in the true Messiah, and thousands of the more righteous, whose fathers did not consent to the shedding of the blood of the Son of God, will receive the gospel before they gather from among the nations. Many of them, however, will not receive the gospel… They will have their synagogues, in which they will preach against Jesus of Nazareth, “that impostor,” as they call him, who was crucified by their fathers.
Perhaps, indeed, the physical return of the Jews to Palestine is designed to play a central role in the advent of a belief in Christ.
Wherefore, he will bring them again out of captivity, and they shall be gathered together to the lands of their inheritance; and they shall be brought out of obscurity and out of darkness; and they shall know that the Lord is their Savior and their Redeemer, the Mighty One of Israel.
I like to think of the current state of Israel, and of the Jewish immigration that gave rise to it and continues to sustain it, as a kind of preparatory gathering. It does not seem to meet the Book of Mormon’s requirements for being the “gathering” in the full sense of the word. This full sense was expressed by the late Elder Bruce R. McConkie, of the Council of the Twelve, as follows: “Now I call your attention to the facts, set forth in these scriptures, that the gathering of Israel consists of joining the true Church, of coming to a knowledge of the true God and of his saving truths, and of worshiping him in the congregations of the Saints in all nations and among all peoples.”
 2 Nephi 6:10-11.
 2 Nephi 10:7. Notable here is the emphasis on the literal reality of the return to Palestine. It is not merely a metaphor or a spiritual abstraction, but will occur “in the flesh, upon the earth.” Professor Stephen D. Ricks addresses this issue on purely biblical grounds in his article “The Prophetic Literality of Tribal Reconstruction,” in Avraham Gileadi, ed., Israel’s Apostasy and Restoration: Essays in Honor of Roland K. Harrison (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), 273-81. The entire book is of interest in this regard.
 3 Nephi 20:29-31, 33.
 Doctrine and Covenants 45:48, 51-53.
 Journal of Discourses 18:64.https://79ef3c3cb9d0ec2a0368b8e354f8b7af.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-37/html/container.html
 1 Nephi 22:12.
 Bruce R. McConkie, in Official Report of the First Mexico and Central America Area General Conference (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1973), 45.