Disclaimer: I was hesitant to post this lesson because it contains quite a bit of speculation - particularly about the gathering of Israel and the building of New Jerusalem. But what the heck. I would remind you that nothing below, even quotes from general authorities and prophets, necessarily represents L.D.S. doctrine. I’m wrong about stuff all the time - just ask Michelle.
Book of Mormon Lesson 40
“Then Will I Gather Them In”
A. We will be covering 3 Nephi 16 and 20-21 today. We are still in the climax of the BoM - Christ’s visit to the Americas. Christ has appeared to the Nephites and Lamanites. He has taught them about baptism. He has taught them many of the same sermons that he delivered in the Old World. He has called disciples.
B. Today we going over what Christ teaches the Nephites about his “other sheep.” We will be talking about the 10 lost tribes, the gathering of Israel and the building of the New Jerusalem.
II. Other Sheep.
A. Read 3 Nephi 16:1-3.
1. Who were these other Sheep? The 10 lost tribes? Remember that the 10 northern tribes of Israel were taken captive out of Israel by the Assyrians in 721 B.C.. (An interesting side note is that the people who identify themselves as Assyrians today are one of the main persecuted Christian minorities in Iraq today.)
2. I’ve gotten in trouble for talking about the 10 lost tribes in the past, so I don’t want to speculate about this. No one knows (or no one is telling us) exactly where or who the lost tribes are. Whether they are under the polar ice caps, in outer space, in Afghanistan, China, Russia, we don’t know.
3. Neal A Maxwell said: “Will there be an additional or third group of convincing and witnessing scriptures? Yes. Will the lost Ten Tribes– those of ancient Israel who did not remain with Judah, as well as a portion of Benjamin— bring their own records and scriptures? Yes. And eventually, by three scriptural witnesses, the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth will be finally established.”
B. In an article about the Book of Mormon and DNA research, John L. Sorenson and Matthew Roper note the following: “as a person’s genealogical lines go back in time, the number of his or her ancestors obviously multiplies. Withing a few centuries all of us have thousands of forebears. Ultimately or theoretically our foreparents could number in the millions. Yet there is a paradox here. Beyond a certain point in time the theoretical number of one’s ancestors exceeds the number of persons who were actually alive then! The truth is that our genealogical lines eventually converge on a restricted set of people. Joseph Chang, a statistician at Yale, in a 1999 article showed that there is a high probability that every European alive today shares at least one common ancestor who lived only 600 years ago. Science writer Steve Olson, who has explained this principle in greater detail in his superlative book, Mapping Human History, observes: ‘The forces of genetic mixing are so powerful that everyone in the world has [for example] Jewish ancestors, though the amount of DNA from those ancestors in a given individual may be small. In fact, everyone on earth is by now a descendant of Abraham, Moses, and Aaron–if indeed they existed.’ In parallel, if one assumes that Lehi was a real figure, Chang’s or Olson’s model would argue that all Amerindians today are likely to be his descendants. But would present-day DNA research indicate anything of the kind? Actually, it would be virtually impossible via today’s DNA procedures to document such slender genealogical links as Chang and Olson are talking about.”
1. We see from this that it is very unlikely that anyone sitting here if not descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob - everyone in the world is, by biological heritage, of the House of Israel.
2. I wonder if we obsess too much in the Church about lineage. I wonder if being part of the house of Israel if more a cultural and spiritual distinction then a genetic one.
II. Jesus commands them to write down what he says for the Gentiles.
A. Read 3 Nephi 16:4.
1. Why does he command them to write what he says down? For the Gentiles.
B. Who are the Gentiles? This gets a bit confusing, because reading about the Gentiles in the Book of Mormon it becomes clear that he is talking about us, the modern member of His Church. But we don’t think of ourselves as Gentiles. We think of ourselves as the House of Israel. In fact, we call people who are not members of the Church, even Jewish people, as Gentiles.
C. The Bible Dictionary says: “The word Gentiles means the nations, and eventually came to be used to mean all those not of the house of Israel... As used throughout the scriptures it has a dual meaning, sometimes to designate peoples of non-Israelite lineage, and other times to designate nations that are without the gospel, even though there may be some Israelite blood therein. This latter usage is especially characteristic of the word as used in the Book of Mormon.”
D. Brother Robert J. Matthews said: “America, as is the case with Europe, has been peopled by those who have been without the fulness of the gospel for many centuries, yet they have much of the blood of Israel in their veins. They are not easily identified or recognized as Israelites and therefore are spoken of as Gentiles, in contrast to those of more recognizable Israelite identity such as the Jews and the lamanites. Hence, the great American nation is spoken of in the Book of Mormon as a Gentile nation, even though we, as Church members, know we have the blood of Israel in us. This condition is described by the Prophet Joseph Smith in D&C 109:58, 60, saying we are “the sons of Jacob’ but are ‘identified with the Gentiles.”“
1. I would argue once again, that it doesn’t matter how much “blood of Israel” runs in our veins, but what we know and how we live that makes us truly the House of Israel.
E. Read 3 Nephi 16:5. It is interesting that he talks about the gathering of Israel right in the middle of talking about the Gentiles. I suspect he means he will gather us from among the Gentiles.
F. Read 3 Nephi 16:6-7. What is promised to the Gentiles? Remember that at least for the Jews at the time of Jesus , the idea that the Gentiles should be taught the gospel and should be looked at with anything but disdain was a completely foreign idea.
G. Read 3 Nephi 16:9-11. I wonder how this will be fulfilled. Certainly the “Gentiles” (European nations in America?) Are already “lifted up in the pride of their hearts.” I wonder if this is referring to the gospel eventually being carried to the world mostly by the Lamanites or if it is talking about the eventual conversion of the Jews.
III. The New Jerusalem.
A. Read Moses 7:62
B. Read Ether 13:4-6
C. Read 3 Nephi 21:20-25.
D. This last conference when they were announcing new temples to be built, when they announced they were building one in Kansas City I started yelling to Michelle, “Hey, their building a temple in Jackson County, Missouri.” I didn’t here the other temples announced and when I turned back to listen it was several seconds later and I heard people gasping and mumbling in the audience. At first I assumed it was a late reaction to the Kansas City temple, but then I heard it was from the announcement that they were building a temple in Rome. Which temple do you think is more significant? The one where the New Jerusalem is to be built or the one within spitting distance of the Vatican? (Not that I suggest that we actually spit at the Vatican from our new temple.)
E. Bruce R. McConkie said: “In addition to the rebuilding of the Jerusalem of old, the latter-days are to see the initial building of a New Jerusalem on the American continent, a city which like its ancient counterpart will be a holy city, a Zion, a city of God. This new Jerusalem is to be built by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; Jackson County, Missouri is the spot designated by revelation for its construction. It shall be built when the Lord directs.”
1. How this will happen, since most of Jackson County from what I understand, is today part of the suburban sprawl of Kansas City, I’m not sure.
F. John Taylor had a vision of the United States in turmoil. (Sound familiar.) He then said, “Immediately after I seemed to be standing on the west bank of the Missouri River opposite the City of Independence but I saw no City. I saw the whole states of Missouri and Illinois and part of Iowa were a complete wilderness with no living human being in them. I then saw a short distance from the river Twelve men dressed in the robes of the Temple standing in a square or nearly so. I understood it represented the Twelve gates of the New Jerusalem, and they were the hands uplifted consecrating the ground and laying the Corner Stones. I saw myriads of Angels hovering over them and around about them and also an immense pillar of a cloud over them and I heard the singing of the most beautiful music the words “Now is established the Kingdom of our God and His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever, and Kingdom shall never be thrown down for the Saints have overcome.’ And I saw people coming from the River and different places a long way off to help build the Temple, and it seemed that the Hosts of angels also helped to get the material to build the temple. And I saw some come who wore their temple robes to help build the temple and the city and all the time I saw the great pillar of cloud hover over the place.”
1. I don’t know what this all means. It sounds like the construction of the New Jerusalem may be a millennial event.
2. When will this happen? When we are ready. D&C 105:2-5, 13.
A. It was humbling for me to study about the gathering of Israel and the building of New Jerusalem and to learn how much of this will depend on the faithfulness of members of Christ’s Church. During this political season in the United States it has been a bit disheartening to me as it becomes more and more evident that the world’s values are becoming less and less similar to God’s values. I testify that although the standards of the world may change, the Church’s standards will not. I believe it will become more important in the coming years for us to “stand in holy places” and protect ourselves and our children from the corruption surrounding us so that we can remain a safe beacon for all humanity. Amen.
John L. Sorenson and Matthew Rober - Before DNA.