Many people find the Old Testament boring and hard to understand but when we look at the Bible as a whole, what we find is that the New Testament is basically a collection of sermons while the Old Testament is a book of history that is filled with many exciting and dramatic stories. There are adventures stories, love stories, stories of rivalry, betrayal, and revenge, stories of friendship and courage, stories of war and conquests and stories of political intrigue.
For example, after King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king over all of Israel but he didn't rule wisely and before long the people began to rebel and soon there was a civil war that ended in the nation of Israel being divided in two. The kingdom of Israel was originally made up of twelve tribes but after the civil war ten of the tribes broke away and called themselves the kingdom of Israel while the other two tribes who remained with Rehoboam called themselves the kingdom of Judah. These children of a man named Israel, who once were brothers and sisters to one another, now became bitter, rival enemies.
However this division created a problem. The Lord had said that the proper place to worship Him was at the temple which was located in the city of Jerusalem which was located in the Kingdom of Judah. That meant that the Israelites had no place to worship God. But they solved this problem by building their own temple and inventing their own gods to worship. However, this angered Jehovah who had said that they were to worship no other God but him. The Lord sent prophets to the kingdom of Israel and warned them that if they did not turn from their evil ways that He would destroy them but they scoffed at such a prediction, thinking they were too strong as a nation. But, in time, true to His word, the Lord allowed the mighty Assyrian empire to conquer the Israelite people, capturing all ten tribes. They were then carried to the north country and scattered among the people over all the land. To this day they have never come back and those ten tribes have become lost to us.
Yet, even though the kingdom of Judah had the temple of the Lord, they too began to worship idols and to do other things that were an abomination in the sight of the Lord, so Jehovah sent prophets to warm them - yea, promise them - that if they did not repent of their evil ways God would destroy them as He had done with their sister, Israel.
One of those prophets was Isaiah. As we read his writings what we find, over and over again, is him condemning Judah for their sins and continually reiterating the promise that the Lord would utterly destroy them if they would not repent. But the Jews didn't listen to his message.
When they failed to heed that warning God sent them another prophet by the name of Jeremiah but they threw him in prison. Then the Lord sent them another prophet by the name of Lehi but they tried to kill him and they would have except Lehi was able to flee Jerusalem under cover of darkness, taking with him only his family and a few possessions, including the Old Testament scriptures. From there he fled through the wilderness, across the ocean and then settled here on the American Continent. Not long after that the Lord came to Lehi and revealed that he had kept His promise. Jerusalem had been destroyed.
Lehi had four sons: Laman, Lemuel, Sam, and Nephi. All of them had grown up in Jerusalem. They knew its streets. They knew its back alleys. They knew its people, many of them by name. They knew of their customs and habits. So when Nephi read what Isaiah had written about the sins of the Jews he was very familiar with what he was talking about. And as he read Isaiah's words, especially about the destruction of their nation, he realized that this promise was directed to him and his family as well because they too were descendants of the Jews. However, Nephi's children had been born in the wilderness and his grandchildren had been born here on the American continent. They didn't know about Jerusalem or about the Jews. That is why Nephi quoted so much from Isaiah because he wanted them to know that the promise God had made to destroy the Jews because of their wickedness also applied to him and his descendants as well if they become a wicked people.
But there was a second promise the Lord made to the house of Israel that is also contained in Isaiah's writings and that is that at some point in the future the Lord would stretch forth His hand and gather all the children of Israel back together again. However, He also said that this gathering would not happen any time soon. In fact, He said that it would happen so far into the future that the children of Israel would say, "God has forsaken us. He has forgotten his promise to us." But the Lord answers, "Can a woman forget the child whom she has raised? Can a woman stop having compassion on the son to whom she has given birth? Although a mother might forget, I will not forget thee. I have written thy names on the palms of my hands and they are before my eyes continually."
As Latter-day Saints we believe in the literal gathering of the House of Israel, including the ten lost tribes, that Zion will be built on this, the American continent and when it has been established then the Lord will come down and reign personally upon the earth, and at that time the earth will be restored to its former paradisical glory (10th Article of Faith).
Isn't that an exciting, dramatic, epic story? And, for the most part, it's found in the Old Testament.
But this story does raise two questions. The first is, if God was so angry at the house of Israel that He scattered them all over the face of the earth then why is He going to gather them together again? And the second question is: If they are scattered and intermingled among all the nations of the earth, how is He going to gather them?
The first question is simple to answer. You see, the earth is the lord's and the fullness thereof belongs to him. He created this earth and everything on it. In fact, there is nothing on this earth that was made that wasn't made without him (John 1:3). But then an enemy came and stole it away from Him and the way he did that was by stealing the hearts of the people. They became more willing to obey Satan than they were willing to obey their Creator.
Numerous times God tried to get man to follow Him and, in the meridian of time, God Himself came down to earth to live among His people. His message was "Repent ye for the KINGDOM of God is at hand" (Matthew 4:17). What God was trying to do was reclaim His right to rule over the earth by turning the hearts of the people back to Him, but the people killed his prophets and apostles, they corrupted His message and they continued to obey Satan.
For six thousand years Jesus has suffered this indignity but the time will come when He will suffer it no more. The day will come when He will take back what rightfully belongs to him, and the way He's going to do that is to evict all those who are wicked from off the face of the earth. He's going to cleanse the earth with fire.
But, if there are no righteous people on the earth when He comes again that means He will inherit an empty planet. What kind of a kingdom is that? If there is no one here to obey Him then Jesus will become a king only over Himself.
That is what the gathering of Israel is all about. It's to bring the children of Israel back to Christ, their Messiah so that when He comes again there will be people here on the earth who will joyously welcome Him as their king.
But how is He going to do this?
When Jesus appeared to the Nephites after His resurrection, He quoted them the words of Isaiah which tell of the Lord's promise to scatter Israel throughout the face of the earth, among all the nations of the Gentiles. Then He read them the words of Isaiah which told of the second promise that the Lord would someday gather His people together again. And then He gave them a sign by which they would know when this gathering would begin. He told them that when they saw the records they were keeping come forth among the Gentiles then they would know that the Father had commenced the gathering of Israel (3 Nephi 21:2,7). The Book of Mormon contains the records of the Nephites and it was given to the Gentiles in 1830. The gathering of Israel has begun.
The title page declares that the purpose of the Book of Mormon is to convince both the Jew and the Gentile that Jesus is the Christ. The Book of Mormon is the instrument that will turn the hearts of the children of Israel back to the God of their fathers. It is the means the Father has prepared whereby they man come unto Christ (see 3 Nephi 21:27).
We know why God is gathering the Jews but why is the Book of Mormon also meant to convince the Gentiles?
The Lord explained why to the Nephites. You can find this in 3 Nephi, chapter 21. Beginning in verse 24 we read, "And then shall they (the Gentiles) assist my people (the children of Israel) that they may be gathered in, who are scattered upon all the face of the land, in unto the New Jerusalem. And then (once the New Jerusalem has be built) shall the power of heaven come down among them; and I also will be in their midst" (3 Nephi 21:24,25).
When we are baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have become citizens of the Kingdom of God and as citizens we have certain rights and privileges but we also have certain duties and obligations. We know that when we are baptized we make a promise to keep all the commandments that God has given us but there is another promise we make as well and that is to help build the kingdom of God here on earth, to help it grow and prosper until it fills the earth in preparation for the second coming of Christ.
Part of the way we do that is by preaching the gospel through the use of the Book of Mormon. That is how people are drawn to Christ's kingdom. However, once a person comes unto Christ that's only the beginning. They must remain faithful to Him and grow into a Christ-like person. In the church we call that "perfecting the saints." But how do we do that?
When someone is called to serve as a secretary in the Primary they have been called by God to assist Him in helping His Church grow by helping these young children grow up to be faithful followers of Christ. When someone is called to be a teacher in the Sunday School, in the Young Men's or the Young Women's program, they have been called by God to assist Him in strengthening His Church by strengthening the youth of Zion so they can grow up to be tomorrow's strong leaders in the kingdom of God. When someone is called to be a Visiting Teacher supervisor, they are being called by God to assist Him in watching over the Church and caring for it. When someone is called to be a Home Teacher they are being called by God to assist Him in making sure "there is no iniquity in the church, neither hardness with each another, neither lying, backbiting, nor evil speaking" (D&C 20:24). Every calling we receive in the Church is a call from our Father in heaven to assist Him in building up His kingdom here upon the earth.
When Jesus lived on the earth He told His disciples, "He that love me will keep my word and the Father will love him and we (both the Father and the Son) will come and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepth not my sayings" (John 14:23,24 ).
When Jesus comes again to evict the wicked and reclaim His rightful place as the King of the earth, how will He know who loves Him more than they love the world? One way is by seeing who was willing to assist Him in building His kingdom instead of the kingdoms of the earth. Whenever we receive any calling from the Lord, no matter how small or great it may be, only those who serve in those callings with all of their heart with an eye single to God's glory are those who truly show their love of Christ. And, when He comes again to set up His kingdom, those are the ones who will be worthy to have Him dwell in their midst.