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The motif and pattern of the gathering and the scattering of Israel, or the Lord’s children, is used throughout the scriptures. Story after story is about one of the two topics. It can be on the grand scale, such as the sacking of the Northern Kingdom in Israel in 721 B.C. by Assyria where the Ten Tribes are lost to history. Or it can be the story of Alma the Younger, scattered from his spiritual roots and finally gathered into the true fold of Christ. It is well to pay attention to these patterns throughout the scriptures, for with the gathering comes a personal invitation from the Lord.
The Hebrew word for gather means literally “to grasp with the hand” and denotes a very personal touch from someone, such as a warm handshake, but with the addition “to catch with the hand” as if to not let go. When the Lord goes about to gather His people, this is the determination that He has. “And it shall come to pass that my people, which are of the house of Israel, shall be gathered home unto the lands of their possessions; and my word also shall be gathered in one.” (2 Nephi 29:14) The Lord gathers in not only the people, but His scriptures so that the people can be one through His word. “And I will show unto them that fight against my word and against my people, who are of the house of Israel, that I am God, and that I covenanted with Abraham that I would remember his seed forever.” (ibid.) His promises are sure. He will gather His people in. And who are His people? All those who do the works of Him.
The Lord does not forget His people
One of the great testimonies of the Lord to the Nephites is that He identifies them as the “other sheep” that He had told His disciples about in the land of Israel. Those who had first heard Him talk about the “other sheep” of His fold thought that He meant the Gentiles. Not so. The Lord said, “Other sheep I have which are not of this fold, them also I must bring. And there shall be one fold and one shepherd.” (John 10: 16) The Lord came to Ancient America to gather His sheep. He said to the people of Nephi who were in His presence at His visitation: “ye are they of whom I said: Other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring…” (See 3 Nephi 15:21)
Then the Lord reveals that there are yet more sheep of His fold that He has not forgotten who have been lost to man, but not to Him. “And verily, verily, I say unto you that I have other sheep, which are not of this land, neither of the land of Jerusalem, neither in any parts of that land round about wither I have been to minister. For they of whom I speak are they who have not as yet heard my voice, neither have I at any time manifested myself unto them. But I have received a commandment of the Father that I shall go unto them, and that they shall hear my voice, and shall be numbered among my sheep, that there may be one fold and one shepherd…” (See 3 Nephi 16: 1-3) Who is He speaking of? These are a remnant of the lost Ten Tribes of Israel. Just like the Nephites and the Jews, they too have holy and sacred records which will some day be gathered in as yet another testimony of Jesus Christ and His divinity. “And then will I remember my covenant which I have made unto my people, O house of Israel, and I will bring my gospel unto them.” (3 Nephi 16: 11) The Lord’s desire for all His children is to gather them together, have the gospel preached to them, let their hearts be softened by His words, extend the covenants and ordinances of the gospel to them, and then let them partake of the blessings of salvation as they are faithful.
The blessing and cursing of the scattering
A two-edged cursing and blessing comes with the scattering of Israel or the people of the Lord. The people are literally cursed because they lose a true knowledge of the Lord and His gospel, thus they become bereft of the Priesthood and the holy ordinances which would have, by and by, led them back into the presence of God. And, the earth is blessed by the scattering of Israel because of the spreading of the seed of Israel, or the chosen blood line among all nations. The Lord told Abraham: “And I will bless them that bless thee; and in thee (that is, in thy Priesthood), and in thy seed (that is, thy Priesthood), for I give unto thee a promise that this right shall continue in thee, and in thy seed after thee (that is to say, the literal seed, or the seed of the body) shall all the families of the earth be blessed, even with the blessings of the Gospel, which are the blessings of salvation, even of life eternal.” (Abraham 2: 11)
Again, then, scattering literally means to lose a true knowledge of God. Gathering denotes coming to a true knowledge of the Lord and His Gospel.
The Gathering as a Sign
The very process of gathering the children of the covenant in the last days is one of the great signs of the heavens to the children of men. “And verily I say unto you, I give unto you a sign, that ye may know the time when these things shall be about to take place-that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion. And behold, this is the thing which I will give unto you for a sign-for verily I say unto you that when these things which I declare unto you, and which I shall declare unto you hereafter of myself, and by the power of the Holy Ghost which shall be given unto you of the Father, shall be made known unto the Gentiles that they may know concerning this people who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, and concerning this my people who shall be scattered by them…And when these things come to pass that thy seed shall begin to know these things-it shall be a sign unto them, that they may know that the work of the Father hath already commenced unto the fulfilling of the covenant which he hath made unto the people who are of the house of Israel.
(3 Nephi 21:1,2, 7)
Thus when we see the gospel begin to go forth to the nations (which we have seen) and the dispersed of Israel be gathered in from the four quarters of the earth (which we are seeing), then can we know that the work of the Father has commenced and we are working towards the time when all the lost sheep can be gathered into one fold, and His word can be gathered into one-the records of the Jews, the Nephites and the Ten Tribes. Great and astonishing miracles will take place. “And when that day shall come, it shall come to pass that kings shall shut their mouths; for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.” (3 Nephi 21:8)
The gathering of Israel happens on a grand scale and on the individual scale. The Lord invites scattered Israel to come home. He invites us to come unto Him. Whether a whole nation or a single soul, through the gathering hand of the Lord, we come to a true knowledge of Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of all.