To help class members understand how latter-day Israel was gathered in the early days of the Church, how it is being gathered today, and how they can participate in this gathering.
Prayerfully study the following scriptures and other materials:
Review the material for this lesson in the Class Member Study Guide (35686). Plan ways to refer to the material during the lesson.
Ask class members to prepare to summarize the following accounts from Our Heritage:
The sacrifices of Newel Knight and Joseph Knight Sr. in gathering to Kirtland (page 18).
The exodus of Saints from Fayette, led by Lucy Mack Smith (page 19).
The sacrifices of Brigham Young in gathering to Kirtland (page 23).
The journey of the Colesville Saints to Missouri and their settlement there (pages 37–39).
If you use the attention activity, bring several small sticks to class.
Suggestions for Lesson Development
As appropriate, use the following activity or one of your own to begin the lesson.
Scatter several small sticks around the room. Show how easily one stick can be broken. Then invite class members to gather all the sticks, and let someone attempt to break them all at the same time.
What can this activity teach us about the Lord’s purposes in gathering His people?
Explain that this lesson focuses on the gathering of Israel and our part in it.
Discussion and Application
Prayerfully select the lesson material that will best meet class members’ needs. Discuss how the scriptures apply to daily life. Encourage class members to share experiences that relate to the scriptural principles.
1. The Lord is gathering His people.
Explain that the gathering of Israel is a prominent theme in the Doctrine and Covenants. Anciently when the twelve tribes of Israel fell into apostasy, they were taken captive by their enemies and scattered among the nations of the earth, just as the Lord had warned. Although the prophets grieved over the wickedness of the people, they rejoiced as they foresaw the time in the latter days when Israel would be gathered again (see Topical Guide, “Israel, Gathering of”). This great process commenced with the restoration of the gospel and the calling of missionaries to “declare glad tidings of great joy unto this generation” (D&C 31:3).
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” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 83).
Read the tenth article of faith and D&C 45:71 with class members. What is the gathering of Israel? (Explain that the gathering of Israel has a spiritual meaning and a physical meaning, as outlined below.)
Spiritual gathering. The spiritual gathering of Israel occurs as people learn the gospel, come unto Christ, are baptized into The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and keep their covenants. In this way they are gathered from the world into the Church, or the kingdom of God on earth.
Physical gathering. The physical gathering of Israel occurs as Church members come together in a particular location or in the stakes of Zion throughout the world.
Read D&C 29:1–2, 7–8 with class members. What can we learn from these verses about the purposes of the gathering? How is being gathered into the Lord’s Church a blessing in your life?
Explain that the authority to direct the gathering of Israel is provided through specific keys of the priesthood. When were the keys of the gathering of Israel restored to the earth? (See D&C 110:11 and the section heading.)
Explain that in this dispensation, the gathering began with a few people in New York. It is now spreading throughout the earth, bringing hundreds of thousands of people each year into the Lord’s Church. What responsibilities do we have to help gather people to the Lord’s Church? (See D&C 33:7; 38:40; 39:11; 88:81.)
2. The Saints gathered in Ohio.
In December 1830, just eight months after the Church was organized, the Lord gave the first call in this dispensation for the Saints to gather physically. He revealed to Joseph Smith that the Saints should leave New York and gather in Ohio (D&C 37:3). You may want to refer to maps 1 and 3 on pages 274 and 276 in this manual and pages
What purposes did the Lord give for commanding His people to go to Ohio? (See D&C 38:31–32; 39:15.) In what way were the Saints “endowed with power from on high” after they gathered to Ohio? (See D&C 95:8; 105:33; 110:9. In part, the Saints received this endowment of power through the appearances of the Savior and the restoration of priesthood keys after the completion of the Kirtland Temple.)
Read D&C 38:24–27 with class members. What counsel did the Lord give in these verses as His people prepared to gather to Ohio? (Answers could include being virtuous, loving each other, and being united.) Why is unity important in the Church? How has feeling united with other Church members been a blessing in your life? How can we become more united?
Read D&C 38:34–39 with class members. What counsel did the Lord give in these verses as His people prepared to gather to Ohio? How does this counsel apply to us? What did the Lord promise those who heeded the commandment to gather? (See D&C 38:39.)
Explain that between January and May 1831, most Church members in New York sold, rented, or left their farms and made the 300-mile journey to Ohio. Many of these Saints made great sacrifices to heed the Lord’s call to gather. Ask the assigned class members to summarize the accounts of these sacrifices from Our Heritage (these are the first three summaries listed under “Preparation,” item 3).
Why do you think these Church members were willing to suffer financially and in other ways to obey the Lord’s call to gather in Ohio? What can we learn from their example? What sacrifices does the Lord ask us to make to help build His kingdom?
3. The Saints gathered in Missouri.
The early Saints had read prophecies about the city of Zion, or New Jerusalem, being established in the latter days (Isaiah 2:2–3; 3 Nephi 20:22; 3 Nephi 21:22–28; Ether 13:2–12; Moses 7:61–62). Locating and establishing this city was one of the prime objectives of these Church members.
A few months after the Saints began gathering in Ohio, Joseph Smith traveled to Missouri and received a revelation designating Missouri as the place for the city of Zion (D&C 57:1–3). With this revelation, Missouri became a second gathering place for the Church in this dispensation (D&C 63:24, 36–48). From 1831 to 1838, the Church maintained centers of population in both Ohio and Missouri. You may want to refer to maps 2 and 3 on pages 275 and 276 in this manual and pages
The following time line summarizes the early revelations about the land of Zion and the establishment of the Church in Missouri. Review the time line with class members, using the chalkboard as needed.
September 1830 (in New York): The Lord revealed that the city of Zion would be built “on the borders by the Lamanites,” with the precise location to be identified later (D&C 28:9).
September and October 1830 (in New York): The Lord called four missionaries to preach the gospel to the Lamanites (D&C 30:5–6; 32:1–3). These missionaries were the first Church members to go to Missouri.
February 1831 (in Kirtland, soon after the Saints began arriving there): The Lord said He would reveal the location of the New Jerusalem in His own due time (D&C 42:62).
June 1831 (in Kirtland, after the first conference there): The Lord called Joseph Smith, Sidney Rigdon, and other elders to go on a mission to Missouri. The Lord also promised to consecrate the land of Missouri to His people as the land of their inheritance (D&C 52:2–5, 42–43).
June 1831 (in Kirtland): The Lord revealed that the Saints from the Colesville Branch in New York, who had journeyed to Ohio, should continue on to Missouri (D&C 54:8).
July 1831 (after the Prophet had traveled to Missouri): The Lord revealed that the city of Zion would be located in Missouri, with Independence as the center place. A temple would be built in Independence (D&C 57:1–3).
The Colesville Saints were the first to gather in Missouri, and many others soon followed. Invite the assigned class member to summarize the experiences of the Colesville Saints as they journeyed to Missouri and began to settle there (see “Preparation,” item 3d).
What impresses you about these accounts of the Colesville Saints? (You may want to review some of the good qualities these Saints exhibited in very challenging circumstances.) What can we learn from their example?
4. The Saints now gather to the stakes of Zion in their own lands.
Church members maintained a strong presence in Ohio and Missouri from 1831 to 1838, when persecution forced most of them to leave (see lessons 26–28). In 1839 they gathered in Illinois and established the city of Nauvoo. They were forced to leave Nauvoo in 1846, and in 1847 President Brigham Young led them to a new gathering place in the Rocky Mountains near the Great Salt Lake. You may want to refer to map 3 on page 276 in this manual and
For many years after the Saints settled in Utah, the call continued for Church members all over the world to gather to that area. However, that phase of the gathering has now ended, and Church members are counseled to gather to the stakes of Zion wherever they live. In an area conference held in Mexico City in 1972, Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“[The] revealed words speak of … there being congregations of the covenant people of the Lord in every nation, speaking every tongue, and among every people when the Lord comes again. …
“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” (in Conference Report, Mexico and Central America Area Conference 1972, 45).
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” (Boyd K. Packer, in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 99; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 71).
What conditions in the Church brought about the change that members should gather in their own nations rather than to a central location? (Answers could include that the Church’s membership and resources became sufficient to establish stakes and build temples in many areas of the world.)
One purpose of gathering to a central location during the pioneering phase of the Church was so members could strengthen each other and find refuge and protection from the world. How are these same purposes fulfilled by gathering to the stakes of Zion today? (See D&C 115:6 and the following quotation. Invite class members to share how they have felt protected and strengthened through the stakes of Zion.) What can we do to ensure that our stakes are a refuge and a defense against evil?
President Ezra Taft Benson said:
“Presently, Israel is being gathered to the various stakes of Zion. … A stake has at least four purposes:
[Stakes are] to unify and perfect the members who live in [their] boundaries by extending to them the Church programs, the ordinances, and gospel instruction.
Members of stakes are to be models, or standards, of righteousness.
Stakes are to be a defense. They do this as stake members unify under their local priesthood officers and consecrate themselves to do their duty and keep their covenants. …
Stakes are a refuge from the storm to be poured out over the earth” (“Strengthen Thy Stakes,” Ensign, Jan. 1991, 2, 4–5).
Temple building was an essential part of the gathering in Kirtland, Missouri, Nauvoo, and Utah. It continues to be essential as the Saints today gather to the stakes of Zion throughout the world. Why is temple building an essential part of the gathering? How does temple work contribute to the great work of the gathering on earth and in the spirit world?
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “What was the object of gathering … the people of God in any age of the world? … The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation. … It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings” (History of the Church, 5:423–24).
Emphasize that the Lord’s promises to gather Israel are being fulfilled in our day. This great work is hastening as people join the Church and worship together in the stakes of Zion in more than 160 nations throughout the world. Encourage class members to labor diligently to gather people into the Church and to build up and strengthen the Church wherever they live. Testify of the promised blessings that come through the gathering.
Additional Teaching Ideas
You may want to use one or both of the following ideas to supplement the suggested lesson outline.
1. “Zion will extend … all over this earth”
You may want to explain that although the center place of Zion will be in Missouri, Zion will eventually spread over all the earth. President Brigham Young said:
“When Joseph [Smith] first revealed the land where the Saints should gather, a woman in Canada asked if we thought that Jackson County would be large enough to gather all the people. … I will answer the question. … Zion will extend, eventually, all over this earth. There will be no nook or corner upon the earth but what will be in Zion. It will all be Zion. …
“We are going to gather as many as we can, bless them, give them their endowments, etc., preach to them the truth, lay the principles of eternal life before them, inform their minds all we have power to do, and lead them into the path of truth and righteousness” (in Journal of Discourses, 9:138).
2. The Lord’s preparation for the physical gathering of the “dispersed of Judah” (Isaiah 11:12)
A few decades after the Savior’s death, the Jews were “scattered among all nations” (2 Nephi 25:15; see also verse 2 Nephi 25:14). However, the scriptures record many prophecies that in the latter days the scattered Jews will be gathered again and be given Jerusalem “for the land of their inheritance” (3 Nephi 20:33; see also 1 Nephi 15:19–20; 2 Nephi 9:1–2; 2 Nephi 10:8).
On 27 March 1836, in the dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith prayed that the gathering of the Jews and the redemption of Jerusalem might begin (D&C 109:62–67). Share the following information to show one way in which the Lord has prepared for the gathering of the Jews:
Orson Hyde recalled that when he joined the Church, Joseph Smith prophesied, “In due time thou shalt go to Jerusalem … ; and by thy hands shall the Most High do a great work, which shall prepare the way and greatly facilitate the gathering together of that people” (History of the Church, 4:375). In the April 1840 general conference, Elder Hyde, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, was called on a mission to Palestine (History of the Church, 4:106). About 18 months later he arrived at his destination.
Early on Sunday morning, 24 October 1841, Elder Hyde ascended the Mount of Olives and offered a prayer. In his prayer he dedicated and consecrated the land “for the gathering together of Judah’s scattered remnants, according to the predictions of the holy Prophets—for the building up of Jerusalem again … and for rearing a Temple in honor of [the Lord’s] name.” He also prayed that the Lord would remember the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob forever and “give them this land for an everlasting inheritance” (History of the Church, 4:456).
As a witness of the deed, Elder Hyde erected a pile of stones on the top of the Mount of Olives. He also erected a pile of stones “on what was anciently called Mount Zion [possibly Mount Moriah], where the Temple stood” (History of the Church, 4:459).