Church History Lesson 26 (Topical)
The Gathering of Israel in the Latter Days
Our 10th Article of Faith states that we believe in a literal gathering of Israel in the latter days. The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “All that the prophets . . . have written, from the days of righteous Abel, down to the last man that has left any testimony on record for our consideration, in speaking of the salvation of Israel in the last days, goes directly to show that it consists in the work of the gathering.”1
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said, “This promised gathering of the Lord’s chosen people was the hope and prayer of all the prophets of Israel. Of it they spoke, and wrote, and prophesied. Even after the Lord Jesus had completed his earthly ministry, the ancient Apostles asked, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?’ He answered that this glorious eventuality was not for their day; that it was not for them to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power’ (Acts 1:6–8); and that the gathering of Israel was, thus, to await the great day of restoration. [This gathering] shall continue until the righteous are assembled into the congregations of the Saints in all the nations of the earth.”2
The Gathering of Israel Today
• Gathering in every nation (D&C 115:6).
In the 1800s, a convert was baptized and then “gathered” geographically with the Saints in an appointed place: Kirtland, Ohio; Independence, Far West, Nauvoo, or Salt Lake City.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“We are now in a new era of church growth and development. In the early days of this dispensation, in the very nature of things, if the saints were to survive as a people, they had to assemble together in chosen places. Otherwise, they would have been lost among the masses of men overcome by the world.
“‘But now, in large measure, we are past that stage of our history . . . We are becoming a world church—not an American church, not a British church, not a Mexican church, but a church for all mankind, for the honest and upright in every nation.
“The place of gathering for the Mexican saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. Japan is for the Japanese; Korea is for the Koreans; Australia is for the Australians; every nation is the gathering place for its own people.”3
Elder Boyd K. Packer said, [In April 1973, President Harold B. Lee, the 11th President of the Church, quoted those words in general conference. In doing so, he] “in effect, announced that the pioneering phase of gathering was now over. The gathering is now to be out of the world into the Church in every nation.”4
President Harold B. Lee said, “The Lord has placed the responsibility for directing the work of gathering in the hands of the leaders of the Church to whom he will reveal his will where and when such gatherings would take place in the future. It would be well—before the frightening events concerning the fulfillment of all God’s promises and predictions are upon us, that the Saints in every land prepare themselves and look forward to the instruction that shall come to them from the First Presidency of this Church as to where they shall be gathered and not be disturbed in their feelings until such instruction is given to them as it is revealed by the Lord to the proper authority.”5
Zion must Consist of a Pure People
• The gathering is to be spiritual (not merely geographical), leaving behind all wickedness and accepting the commitment to live more righteously (D&C 133:14).
• As the Saints began to gather at Kirtland, Ohio, in 1831, they were entering a large community of Saints on the frontier—the unsettled land in Ohio known then as the Western Reserve. Many settlers who moved to that area left behind the cultural and religious norms of New England for life on the Western frontier, which was often marked by lawlessness and moral laxity.
• Later, the Lord revealed his intention to “raise up . . . a pure people” (D&C 100:16). Latter-day Saints, like the ancient Israelites, are a covenant people with the responsibility and the privilege to help establish God’s kingdom through obedience to his laws.
• The Lord had promised to establish a basic framework of laws to govern his church and to sanctify his people (D&C 41:3–4; 88:34).
• The elders were called to preach the gospel, baptize, and build up the Church (D&C 42:1–10; 11–13). They had to be called and ordained, and teach the gospel found in the scriptures.
• They were to teach by the Spirit (D&C 42:14). Without the Spirit, teaching is not possible.
• What the Lord expects of us as teachers (D&C 11:20–21; 35:13–15).
EFFORTS TO SHARE THE GOSPEL
An important aspect of the Kirtland period was the calling of missionaries to preach the gospel in the United States, Canada, and England. Most of them served at great personal sacrifice. Despite mounting problems in Kirtland, Joseph Smith and other Church leaders went out to preach during the summer of 1836.
Parley P. Pratt’s Mission to Canada:
“In 1836 Elder Parley P. Pratt, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, was called to serve a mission to Canada. On his way to Toronto, Canada, “a stranger gave him a letter of introduction to President John Taylor, a Methodist lay preacher in Toronto. Taylor was affiliated with a group who believed existing churches did not correspond with New Testament Christianity. For two years this group had met several times a week for the ‘purpose of seeking truth, independent of any sectarian organization.’ In Toronto, Elder Pratt was courteously received by the Taylors, but they were not at first enthusiastic about his message.
“Discouraged at being unable to secure a place to preach, Parley decided to leave Toronto. Before going he stopped at the Taylors to get some of his luggage and to say goodbye. While he was there, Leonora Taylor told her friend Mrs. Isabella Walton about Parley’s problem and said she was sorry he was leaving. ‘He may be a man of God,’ she said. Mrs. Walton replied that she had been inspired by the Spirit to visit the Taylors that morning because she was willing to let Elder Pratt stay at her home and preach. He did so and was eventually invited to attend a meeting of President John Taylor’s group, in which John read the New Testament account of Philip’s preaching in Samaria. ‘Now,’ said he, ‘where is our Philip? Where is our receiving the Word with joy, and being baptized when we believed? Where is our Peter and John? Our Apostles? Where is our Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands? . . . ‘
“When Parley was invited to speak, he declared that he had answers to President John Taylor’s questions. For three weeks President John Taylor attended Elder Pratt’s meetings, making detailed notes of his sermons and carefully comparing them with the scriptures. Gradually he became convinced that the true gospel of Jesus Christ was restored. He and his wife, Leonora, were baptized on 9 May 1836.”6
Levi Hancock’s Mission to Missouri:
“Levi Hancock was baptized in November 1830, and soon afterward he was called to leave Kirtland and serve a mission in Missouri. The journey involved walking hundreds of miles, and he and his companion, Zebedee Coltrin, had success in preaching the gospel as they traveled. “But they also suffered hardships on their journey. Levi fell ill because of an infection in his feet and had to spend time recuperating with a family who took him in while Zebedee went on with-out him. Later, in Missouri, he continued to struggle with illness and chafed at times because of his inability to do all he wanted. But grateful to serve, he wrote: ‘I have to be honest before God and do all the good I can for his kingdom or woe is me. I care not for the world nor what they say. They have to meet my Testimony at the Judgement seat. I mean that my conduct shall be such that my words will be believed, the Lord being my helper.’ Later, Levi served valiantly as part of Zion’s Camp. In February 1835 he was chosen as one of the Presidents of the Seventy.”7
President Brigham Young’s Sacrifices for the Work:
“I felt, yes, I can leave my father, my brothers and sisters and wife and children, if they will not serve the Lord and go with me . . . When I went to Kirtland, I had not a coat in the world, for previous to this I had given away everything I possessed that I might be free to go forth and proclaim the plan of salvation to the inhabitants of the earth.”8
“One week [after baptism] I had the pleasure of meeting with and preaching to a large congregation. I think there were present on that occasion four experienced Elders, formerly of the Methodist and Baptist persuasions, who had received the gospel and had been numbered with us. I expected to hear them address the people on the principles that we had just received through the servants of the Lord. They said that the Spirit of the Lord was not upon them to speak to the people, yet they had been preachers for years. I was but a child, so far as public speaking and a knowledge of the world was concerned; but the Spirit of the Lord was upon me, and I felt as though my bones would consume within me unless I spoke to the people and told them what I had seen, heard and learned—what I had experienced and rejoiced in; and the first discourse I ever delivered I occupied over an hour. I opened my mouth and the Lord filled it.”9
Joseph Smith’s Mission to the East
Joseph Smith also engaged in missionary efforts for the cause of Zion.
He fulfilled some of these missions on his own initiative without commandment from the Lord. One such mission was undertaken because of the Church’s financial difficulties. William Burgess told Joseph Smith of a treasure hidden somewhere in an old house in Salem that could help them alleviate their financial burdens. Taking the man at his word, Joseph arranged to meet him there in August. When the Prophet and his party arrived, Mr. Burgess informed them that the city had changed so much since he had lived there that he could no longer locate the house, and he soon left them.
Shortly thereafter, Joseph received D&C 111, which contains reproof and instruction. The main message of the revelation is to keep their priorities in order, not to worry about the temporal needs for the present but to get on with the Lord’s work.
• The Lord looks to the temporal needs of his servants (D&C 111:1–4). The Lord seems to be chiding Joseph for forgetting who was really in charge.
• The Lord told Joseph that he would give them power to pay the Church’s debts (D&C 111:5–6). Further, he revealed that he would deal mercifully with Zion.
• God directs his servants through the power of His Spirit (D&C 111:7–8, 11).
• Joseph went to Salem for money, but the Lord was more concerned for the salvation of his children than for temporary financial difficulties of Church (D&C 111:9–10).
MISSIONS OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES
“Something . . . for the Salvation of His Church”
When the Quorum of the Twelve was organized in February 1835, they were instructed in their duties. Oliver Cowdery said, “The greatness of your commission consists in this: you are to hold the keys of this ministry; you are to go to the nations afar off—nations that sit in darkness. The day is coming when the work of God must be done.”10
By 1837 (two years after their call), the Twelve had not yet begun to fulfill their commission. 1836–1837 were dark years for the Church. Persecutions in Missouri caused many to lose faith, while in Kirtland the spirit of apostasy caused others to fall. The Church was in its greatest moment of crisis as the adversary sought to destroy it from both within and without. But God was in control.
The Prophet Joseph Smith said, “God revealed it to me that something new must be done for the salvation of his Church.”11
THE MISSION TO ENGLAND
The Prophet Joseph Smith said to Heber C. Kimball on June 4, 1837:
“The spirit of the Lord has whispered to me: Let my servant Heber go to England and proclaim my gospel, and open the door of salvation to that nation.”
Heber C. Kimball said:
“The idea of being appointed to such an important mission was almost more than I could bear up under. I felt my weakness and was nearly ready to sink under it, but the moment I understood the will of my heavenly Father, I felt a determination to go at all hazards, believing that he would support me by his almighty power, and although my family were dear to me, and I should have to leave them almost destitute, I felt that the cause of truth, the gospel of Christ, outweighed every other consideration.”12
Joseph Smith called him to go on a mission to England even though it might not have been a logical thing to do. Joseph needed his strongest and most stalwart leaders and supporters close to him.
A few days later Orson Hyde, also of the quorum of the Twelve, and Elder Willard Richards, and four other missionaries left for England with Elder Kimball.
The influx of converts more than made up for the loss of Kirtland Saints who left the Church.
— Within a year, 26 branches were established and 1,300 persons baptized in England.
— The next year Elder Kimball returned to England and produced 4,700 more converts.
— By 1851, there were more than 42,000 Church members and 642 congregations in England.
— Many thousands more had already immigrated to the United States. By 1856, the number of immigrants reached 24,000.
A Revelation to the Twelve Apostles (D&C 112)
On 23 July 1837, the day the missionaries first preached the gospel in England, the Prophet Joseph Smith received a revelation directed to Thomas B. Marsh, the President of the Quorum of the Twelve.
• The Twelve are to send the gospel and raise the warning voice to all nations (D&C 112:1–10).
• They are to take up their cross, follow Jesus, and feed his sheep (D&C 112:13–15).
• The promise contained in verse 19 was fulfilled quickly. Within eight months, 2,000 people had joined the Church through their efforts, and 26 branches had been organized.
• The Twelve carry the work into all the world as directed by the First Presidency (D&C 112:16–22). The First Presidency are “counselors” (those who give counsel to) to the Twelve (v. 20). Elder Joseph Fielding Smith said, “The First Presidency, the Lord said, were to be counselors to the Twelve. By this is meant that the twelve should not go forth without the counsel and direction of the First Presidency.”13
• The Lord promised the Twelve that He would give them power to open nations to the preaching of the gospel if they would “humble themselves before [Him], . . . abide in [His] word, and hearken to the voice of [His] Spirit” (vv. 21–22).
A Prophecy of the Destiny of the Church and its Work
The Prophet Joseph Smith said in a priesthood meeting held at the school-house on a hill above the Morley Farm:
“Brethren, I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight. But I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it.” I was rather surprised. He said[,] “[I]t is only a little handful of priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America—it will fill the world. . . .This people will go into the Rocky mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there.”14
1. Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Elder Joseph Fielding Smith , 83.
2. Address at Mexico City Area Conference, Church News, 2 Sept. 1972, 13.
3. Address at Mexico City Area Conference, Church News, 2 Sept. 1972, 13.
4. In Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 99; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 71.
5. In Conference Report, Apr. 1948, 55.
6. Church History in the Fulness of Times [Church Educational System manual, 157; Parley P. Pratt, Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, 134–140, 151.
7. Don L. Searle, “It Is the Truth, I Can Feel It,” Ensign, July 1999, 48–50.
8. Nibley, President Brigham Young: The Man and His Work, 4th ed. , 9–10.
9. In Journal of Discourses, 13:211.
10. History of the Church, 2:197.
11. Elder B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, 6 vols. , 1:396–397.
12. Elder Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball , 104.
13. Church History and Modern Revelation, 4 vols. [1946–1949], 2:73.
14. President Wilford Woodruff, in Conference Report, April 6, 1898, 57.