Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Book of Mormon Lesson 40: “Then Will I Gather Them In” 3 Nephi 16; 20–21

Lesson 40: “Then Will I Gather Them In”
 3 Nephi 16; 20–21

I have other sheep
3 Nephi 16

Jesus told the Nephites that they are the other sheep, whom he referred to when speaking to the Jews.  Yet, now we find that the Nephites are not the only “other sheep.”  These primarily include the other lost tribes of Israel.  However, the Lord seems to add an additional Beatitude here:

“And blessed are the Gentiles, because of their belief in me, in and of the Holy Ghost, which witnesses unto them of me and of the Father” (3 Ne 16:6).

The Gentiles may also be blessed, even as Israel is when they believe and obey.  While they cannot see the Lord without the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood (D&C 84:19-26), they can feel the witness of the Holy Ghost as it testifies of the Father and Son.  Note that this is not just a promise to the Gentiles among the Latter-day Saints, but to all Gentiles.  When missionaries testify of God, Christ and the restored gospel to people, it is the Holy Ghost that witnesses of these truths.

The Holy Ghost testifies not only of celestial truths, but also of the truths of terrestrial things.  The Law of Moses and Aaronic Priesthood are terrestrial.  They received the key to the ministering of angels, who speak by the power of the Holy Ghost.

It is too easy and simple to think that because God restored the fullness of the gospel through Joseph Smith that God cannot speak to others, as well.  In Alma 29:8, we find that the Lord delivers to each people and nation the amount of light and truth they are ready and willing to receive.  Most Christian churches are good and inspired to the level in which they accept God’s truth.  Even the LDS Church, with its continuing revelation, recognizes that it does not have all truth, only a fullness of it.  This means we have enough to bless and exalt people.  It does not mean we have all the answers.  So, we see Jesus tell the Nephites:

Behold, because of their belief in me, saith the Father, and because of the unbelief of you, O house of Israel, in the latter day shall the truth come unto the Gentiles, that the fulness of these things shall be made known unto them” (3 Ne 16:7).

God gives them a fullness of “these things” meaning of spiritual truths, covenants and ordinances.  It does not mean a fullness of all things nor all truth.  From Adam to Joseph Smith to our modern prophet, all have to deal with the human struggle to gain revelation, and then to understand that revelation.

Gentiles reject the Gospel

And thus commandeth the Father that I should say unto you: At that day when the Gentiles shall sin against my gospel, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, and shall be lifted up in the pride of their hearts above all nations, and above all the people of the whole earth, and shall be filled with all manner of lyings, and of deceits, and of mischiefs, and all manner of hypocrisy, and murders, and priestcrafts, and whoredoms, and of secret abominations; and if they shall do all those things, and shall reject the fulness of my gospel, behold, saith the Father, I will bring the fulness of my gospel from among them” (3 Ne 16:10).

This isn’t a question of IF the Gentiles will reject Christ, but WHEN.  Note the signs of their apostasy from Christianity: pride, lying, dishonesty, murder, priestcraft, whoredoms and secret combinations. Today, we find Europe is basically non-Christian. The United States is increasingly changing from religious to spiritual, where people believe in God but do little about that belief.  Marriage covenants are replaced with marriages of convenience, which may be broken on a whim.  Many live together, rather than be burdened with the marriage covenant.  Sex is everywhere and all too common, replacing true love with just a physical attraction. Dishonesty and lying are spreading, as bankers and Congressmen seek to hide their dealings in crashing the US economy in 2008.  A recent study shows that most scientific papers that are recalled are rescinded because of dishonesty, rather than honest mistakes.  Murders increase around the globe.  Many churches have replaced the 10 Commandments with the 10 Suggestions in order to be popular and rich.  Secret combinations abound in gangs, governments, unions and big business.

If we have not yet reached the end of the Gentiles’ time to enjoy the fullness of God’s blessings, we are rapidly approaching it.  In that day, Israel will gain power over the Gentiles of Europe and America.  They will trample down those who oppose them.  God will redeem Israel, and Isaiah tells us that in that day,

The Lord hath made bare his holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of God” (3 Ne 16:20).

The Sacrament again
3 Nephi 20

Jesus provides the bread and wine to the Nephites.  He administers to his twelve apostles, who then administered to the twelve groups of Nephites.  As noted in previous lessons, while baptism sometimes seems like an individual ordinance and covenant, we see in the renewal of those covenants via the Sacrament that it is a communal experience.  The people renew their covenants as a group.  This is part and parcel of Christ’s desire to make them one people, by having them covenant together as one.

Jesus teaches of Isaiah

Afterwards, Jesus commands the people to study the words of Isaiah, especially in regards to the Lord’s promises with Israel (as we read in 3 Ne 16:18-20).

“…when they (Isaiah’s words) shall be fulfilled then is the fulfilling of the covenant which the Father hath made unto his people, O house of Israel” (3 Ne 20:12).

Isaiah foresaw the coming of the gospel to the Gentiles, and later the apostasy of the Gentiles.  Now the Lord will return the covenant to the house of Israel and the few humble Gentiles that continue to believe.  The final gathering of Israel will occur at that time.  Currently, we are primarily involved in the spiritual gathering of Israel.  In the last times, we will see the physical gathering of Israel.  They will come to know their Lord and follow him.

As for the Gentiles, if they reject God and work against Israel, the Lord tells the Nephites:

Then shall ye, who are a remnant of the house of Jacob, go forth among them; and ye shall be in the midst of them who shall be many; and ye shall be among them as a lion among the beasts of the forest, and as a young lion among the flocks of sheep, who, if he goeth through both treadeth down and teareth in pieces, and none can deliver….And it shall come to pass, saith the Father, that the sword of my justice shall hang over them at that day; and except they repent it shall fall upon them, saith the Father, yea, even upon all the nations of the Gentiles….And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people (Israel); yea, even I will be in the midst of you.” (3 Ne 20:16-22).

Israel (whether the Jews or the descendants of the house of Joseph, etc.) will have the covenant with God.  He will make them powerful and lead them to victory.  Only those Gentiles who humble themselves and repent shall avoid the destructions of the last days.

Again, Jesus references the covenant with Abraham.  This covenant is all about the people as a group, and not an individual.  Abraham, Isaac and Jacob symbolize the Godhead, and Israel are their children.  When Israel learns to be one as a covenant people, they become holy and God can dwell in their midst.  In conjunction with the Abrahamic covenant, the Lord quotes Isaiah to place a well known quote into the context of the covenant people:

And then shall they say: How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him that bringeth good tidings unto them, that publisheth peace; that bringeth good tidings unto them of good, that publisheth salvation; that saith unto Zion: Thy God reigneth!” (3 Ne 20:40, Isa 52:7).

Depart from Babylon

“And then shall a cry go forth: Depart ye, depart ye, go ye out from thence, touch not that which is unclean; go ye out of the midst of her; be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord” (3 Ne 20:41).

Here we see two concepts: leaving Babylon behind (both physically and spiritually).  Babylon represents the evils and sins of the world.  The Gentiles will forsake God in exchange for the wealth and prestige of Babylon.  They will spiritually decay and canker.

The “vessels of the Lord” represents the holy items connected to the Temple or Tabernacle.  When the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness, they took with them a portable temple, the Tabernacle of Moses.  The priests and Levites were the only ones allowed to carry the sacred items from one site to another.  Once reestablished, the priests were to offer sacrifice and perform other important ordinances within the holy sanctuary.  Whether carrying incense burners or the Ark of the Covenant, the priesthood holders were expected to be clean or holy.  When on priest offered strange fire to the Lord, he was destroyed.  As the Ark of the Covenant was being carried and tipped a little, a Levite tried to steady the ark. Since he was not allowed to touch it, he was not clean nor allowed to be near the ark.  The Lord destroyed him, as well.

There are many Gentiles among us today who seek to steady the ark, even though they have not the authority.  Many heavily criticize the doctrines and teachings, the Brethren and other leaders, whom the critics see as weak or foolish.  These doctrines and leaders are not required to be perfect.  They are expected to be clean.  In humbly seeking to be holy, the Lord sanctifies them.  Meanwhile those who offer strange fire or steady the ark will find that the Lord will destroy them someday, if they do not humble themselves and repent.

The Gentiles and Israel
3 Nephi 21

“ behooveth the Father that it should come forth from the Gentiles, that he may show forth his power unto the Gentiles, for this cause that the Gentiles, if they will not harden their hearts, that they may repent and come unto me and be baptized in my name and know of the true points of my doctrine, that they may be numbered among my people, O house of Israel;
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 Ne 21:6-7).

The Lord gives the sign of the last days to Israel.  The Gentiles will receive the writings of the Nephites and deliver them to the lost tribes of Israel.  At that time, the fulfilling of the covenant with Israel shall commence.  When the Gentiles, by and large, reject the gospel truths they once embraced, then the house of Israel will be restored completely to the covenant.  Those Gentiles who humble themselves will become a part of the house of Israel.  This includes most of the members of European, Asian, and African heritage.
Finally, the Lord will do away with Babylon.  It will be destroyed.  Anyone involved with the enticements of Babylon risk being destroyed.  

In this last day, Jesus states that the “work of the Father shall commence.”  It is a work that is tied directly with the believers and followers, those of the spiritual and physical house of Israel. They shall learn, as a people, to call upon the Father in Jesus’ name.  This work is one of spiritually converting and physically gathering Israel to the promised lands: Jerusalem and Zion.  The righteous will not have to leave in haste, as Lot had to escape Sodom.  But they will gather under the power of God in Zion and her stakes, as well as the Jews in Jerusalem.  This will be the refuge for the righteous.

No comments: