Book of Mormon: Gathering Israel, Preparing for Second Coming
By R. Scott Lloyd, Church News staff writer
The Book of Mormon is “specifically addressed to the remnant of the house of Israel” and is a sign to the world that the Lord has begun to gather scattered Israel, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve said January 17.
Elder Nelson’s remarks in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City concluded the three-day 2013 Seminar for New Missionary Training Center Presidents and Visitors’ Center Directors. He addressed 18 departing husband-and-wife couples who were at the Provo Missionary Training Center for the first two days of the seminar and who received concluding instruction and training in Salt Lake City. (Other reports from this seminar can be found in the Church News and Events for January 24 and 25.)
Referring to chapter 5 of the missionary guide Preach My Gospel, Elder Nelson pointed out that it teaches five things about the Book of Mormon: that it is the keystone of the LDS faith, that it testifies of Christ, that it and the Bible support each other, that it answers questions of the soul, and that it draws people nearer to God.
“Those are good, true statements, but what would be the perspective of our Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, if you were to ask Them five things about the Book of Mormon?” he asked. “I don’t think they’d be those five.”
He said the perspective of the Father and Son as they appeared to the Prophet Joseph Smith in the Sacred Grove “would surely be shaped by two long-standing promises that They have made to all mankind.”
Elder Nelson identified those promises as being that scattered Israel would be gathered and the Lord will come again.
“These two promises would have been paramount as They ushered in the last dispensation, this dispensation of the fulness of times,” he said.
Elder Nelson pointed out that all previous gospel dispensations have been limited in time and location, but not so with this, the final dispensation.
In the dispensation of Abraham, Elder Nelson said, God covenanted that through Abraham’s lineage, people of all nations would be blessed. Other components of the covenant were numberless posterity, certain lands would be inherited, the Savior of the world would come through the lineage, and that the seed of Abraham would be the official bearers of the priesthood to all nations, he explained.
Elder David F. Evans of the Seventy, left, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve, Sister Wendy Nelson, and Elder Russell M. Nelson greet departing couples as they leave the room following Elder Nelson’s address.
Elder Nelson recounted that Israel was disobedient and was scattered as a result, but God promised that scattered Israel in time would be gathered back into the fold of the Lord.
“The opening title page of the Book of Mormon makes reference to the house of Israel, and the three farewell speeches of Mormon and Moroni close the Book of Mormon by making reference to the gathering of Israel,” Elder Nelson explained. “So the whole Book of Mormon is bracketed by this doctrine. It’s one of the important teachings of the Church.”
He cited these words of Christ: “I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion” (3 Nephi 21:1).
“So the coming forth of the Book of Mormon exists as a sign to the entire world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill covenants He made those 4,000 years ago to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,” Elder Nelson commented.
“We not only teach this concept, but we participate in it,” he remarked to the departing missionary couples. “We do so as we help to gather the elect of the Lord on both sides of the veil. Marvelously and mercifully, the invitation to come unto Christ can also be extended to those who died without a knowledge of the gospel. Part of their preparation requires earthly efforts of others.”
He said his wife, Wendy, whom he had introduced to the group earlier in the session, “is on night call.” He explained that she feels the call of deceased ancestors and works late into the night doing research to identify them. “She keeps our family supplied with names for those people who are keeping her from sleeping at night.”
He added, regarding those engaged in gathering scattered Israel, “So we gather pedigree charts and create family group sheets and do temple work vicariously to gather individuals unto the Lord and into their families, their eternal families.”
The promise of the gathering is important, Elder Nelson said, because it is “a promised prelude to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord. So, from the standpoint of Deity, the Book of Mormon and the establishment of the Church just unlock the door now toward the fulfilling of those two great promises that they have outstanding.
“The Book of Mormon is God’s instrument brought forth to accomplish both of those divine objectives.”