Gathering Israel, Missionary Work, Seeking after the One

Jesus and the Children

Original Talk Given:  April 21, 2013

Gathering Israel Through Missionary Work: by prayerful personal preparation and seeking after the one.

As I begin my talk I feel inspired by the true doctrine of the concern for “the one”. As I speak today I pray that you listen with your heart and consider the individuals the Lord wants you, specifically, to reach out to in order to minister and lift in the way that only you know how.

Gather Israel

So to begin let’s get a little doctrinal and talk about the Gathering of Israel.

In past dispensations there has been a scattering of the tribes of Israel. Revelations in our day have given us direction about this and what will occur in the future.

Article of Faith 10 reads:

10 We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.

In Doctrine and Covenants Section 110

After participating in the sacrament, Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery were then on the stand in the Kirtland Temple praying: Jesus Christ appears to them (I’m quoting just parts of the section):

9 Yea the hearts of thousands and tens of thousands shall greatly rejoice in consequence of the blessings which shall be poured out, and the endowment with which my servants have been endowed in this house.

10 And the fame of this house shall spread to foreign lands; and this is the beginning of the blessing which shall be poured out upon the heads of my people. Even so. Amen.

11 After this vision closed, the heavens were again opened unto us; and Moses appeared before us, and committed unto us the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the north.

There are two parts to this gathering, the Physical gathering and the Spiritual gathering of Israel. As the restoration of the church began to unfold, there were a few physical gatherings required of the saints:

  • In December 1830, the saints were first called to organize in Kirtland,
  • Then in the following year some saints were called to gather to Independence, Missouri
  • After persecution became unbearable the saints were gathered to Nauvoo, Illinois in 1839-1846
  • Then finally the saints were gathered to Utah and surrounding areas from 1846-1972 Utah

So why are all members of the church not gathered to Salt Lake City or living in Independence, Missouri exclusively?

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… every nation is the gathering place for its own people”

Then in April 1973, President Harold B. Lee, quoted those words in general conference. In doing so, he “in effect, announced that the pioneering phase or physical gathering was now over. The gathering is now to be out of the world into the Church in every nation”

So why is this idea of Gathering so important?

Ezra Taft Benson talks about the gathering.

Presently, Israel is being gathered to the various stakes of Zion. … A stake has at least four purposes:

1.) [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.

2.) Members of stakes are to be models, or standards, of righteousness.

3.) 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. …

4.) Stakes are a refuge from the storm to be poured out over the earth”

Missionary Work – The Spiritual Gathering

The way we normally describe the efforts of spiritual gathering is Missionary Work.

In the April 2013 General Conference a particular scripture stood out as truly coming to pass in our day. It has been a tag line of sorts but with great meaning:

Doctrine and Covenants 88:73 Behold, I will hasten my work in its time.

Between the last two General Conferences of the church we have seen the faith of young people bring this prophesy to pass.

During the October, 2012 General Conference, as President Monson reveled the new ages for missionary service I sent a quick text message to one of the Young Men from our ward. He was away at college in his first semester. I think my text went something like: “So are we having a farewell before or after Christmas?”

I know you young people are a cut above my generation and previous. You are being challenged and tempted to a greater degree, and that’s because our Heavenly Father has incredible things for you to do. This young man answered the Prophet’s call. He was one of the first from our ward affected by the agent change. He served an honorable full time mission in the San Bernadino, CA mission from February 2013 to February 2015. This is just one of the thousands of examples that are occurring each and every day with our young people.

The responsibility of the gathering of Israel through missionary work is not the sole responsibility of the individuals wearing the black tags. Each and every one of us has the responsibility to be a member missionary.

Doctrine and Covenants 38:40–42.

40 And again, I say unto you, I give unto you a commandment, that every man, both elder, priest, teacher, and also member, go to with his might, with the labor of his hands, to prepare and accomplish the things which I have commanded.

41 And let your preaching be the warning voice, every man to his neighbor, in mildness and in meekness.

Did you catch that scripture. It is for you and I. We are to be the voice of warning to our neighbors… The Lord is speaking, directly to us, in OUR neighborhoods, right here in the place where we live.

What does missionary work look like where you live?

Is it doing our Home or visiting teaching?

Is it simply a homemade treat?

Is it actual Proselyting? or Door Knocking?

Is it service in a neighbor’s yard?

Is it taking a co-worker out to lunch and talking about what’s most important?

Is it handing someone a Book of Mormon?

Is it having Family Home Evening with more than your own family?

Is it inviting a friend from school to church with you?

Is it just being a good example?

Is it a family fast for someone you have been thinking about?

Is it a ward/neighborhood block party?

Is it a four wheeling or snow mobile ride with neighbors?

Is it church basketball?

This one has hit our home recently:

Is it making that tough “uncool choice” to tell your friends you don’t play “M” rated games, or watch those “inappropriate” shows, and then leaving?

Yes, I believe it’s all these things and everything else you have been and are directed to do from our Heavenly Father and his Son through the Holy Ghost.

We are His children. He already wants us to be happy, find the gospel, live righteously, and return to live with Him. It’s our inability to tune into the direction He is giving us, that prevents his work from going forward. It is OUR responsibility as members of His church to carry His gospel to those we come in contact with.

Prayerful Personal Preparation

That leads to the next part of the priority: Prayerful Personal Preparation

My wife was a convert to the church when she was about 10 years old. Paige grew up in a home where even at a young age, she realize how bad alcohol abuse was. She saw this in her own home and then in the homes of other extended family she would babysit for. On one occasion one of her aunts asked Paige to go to a church she belonged to… not the LDS church. Paige remembered that for the sacrament (or communion) wine was served. Immediately, Paige was put off by this church (because of her distain from witnessing the affects of alcohol) but still had the desire to learn more about religion. She began searching for another church to go to. During school one day, Paige had the phone book open looking for a church. One of her friends, passing by, inquired what she was doing and invited her to the church right in their neighborhood. This was the LDS church.

At Paige’s very first meeting she remembers the testimony of a newly wed young woman. She bore testimony about the temple. She spoke of something Paige had never heard of. It was the concept of eternal marriage and eternal families. Paige was hooked… she knew this was something different and she needed to be a part of it. Shortly thereafter, the same friend from school invited Paige over for dinner with her family. Of course arrangements had been made for the missionaries to be there. Paige was baptized soon after. By the time she was 15 her entire family was sealed in the Idaho Falls temple. Her family never would have made it to the temple if it weren’t for members extending a hand of fellowship and unconditional love.

I bring up this story to focus on the missionary efforts it illustrates.   Paige’s aunt who recognized Paige’s need and desire to go to church. Paige’s good friend, who did nothing more than observe, ask a question, and invite. Is this missionary work? Then, the young bride who simply bore her testimony in church; was that missionary work? Do you think it crossed her mind that the words she was about to say about going through the temple and getting sealed to her husband were going to be a catalyst that got an entire family into the church. Then of course the dinner lessons at Paige’s friend’s home. Obviously, that was missionary work.

With more focus, and the direction of the Lord, could we all do more?

So how do we prepare.

Learn

The first important step is to study, learn, and be striving to increase our knowledge of the gospel. We don’t need to know everything to be an effective missionary, but I believe studying the scriptures, the words of the modern day prophets, and Preach My Gospel are a good start. It’s important to learn the language of the gospel. It’s kind of tough to share something you care about deeply in your heart if you don’t know the words to describe it.

WARNING: Do not use this as an excuse not to act. You may think you don’t know as much as you should, or think that others know more, but I promise you that most primary children know more than enough to be effective missionaries.

Prayer

For the next step I quote a scripture brought up in conference about our Savior:

We’re in Mark Chapter 6, after Jesus fed the 5000:

45 And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.

46 And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

So after a long day of teaching our Savior had the need to step away, refuel, and prepare with his father for additional ministering and teaching.

Turn to our Heavenly Father and seek inspiration on whom He wants you to minister to, and what He wants you to do. It may not come at first, it may take a few different occasions on your knees to get yourself in the frame of mind to receive that revelation… but it will come.

As you think through this consider a line I heard in a talk recently:

*If the Lord came to your neighborhood today, whom would He visit first?

Another WARNING. Don’t over think this; don’t wait for a major sign, the individuals you’ve been thinking about throughout this message are probably the ones you need to turn to first. While praying, names will come into your mind. Have faith to know this is the Lord’s will for you and for the one you have been called to serve.

*If you’re waiting for someone to just come up to you, ask you all about the LDS church, and where the closest baptismal font is …you may be waiting a LONG time.

Depending on the situation it may be good to include the potential missionary efforts in a fast, or even a Family Home Evening to discuss how your family together could reach out to someone.

It’s really tough to reach out to someone if you don’t know them. I’m as guilty as anyone on this. Get to know the people around you.

When I received the phone call to come in and interview with the stake president for this calling, I was out of town. I was in Cincinnati for a full week before I could get back here to learn what my calling would be. I had no idea what it was for. I know some of you have great inspiration and know exactly what’s coming and when, but I was oblivious. One night I had a horrible time sleeping and the thought occurred to me that I might be called as some sort of missionary or mission leader, or something like unto it. This horrible feeling came over me. (probably not the best response). There are three or four neighbors around me that I have never taken the time to visit with and get to know and I was worried that I would now be “called” to make my first visit to their homes attempting to share the gospel with them when I had never taken the time to visit them socially or even build a relationship of any kind. This fear reenergized me and helped me to realize how important it is that I reach out to these neighbors. How selfish of me not to have done so previously!

Act

The next step in the preparation is to go and do. Don’t wait until next Sunday when you’re not as tired. Don’t wait for the “right” excuse to show up and do. These opportunities do not get better the longer you put them off. Don’t sit down and overanalyze it. I know this is a horrible example but don’t avoid taking the cookies over just because you don’t have doilies to put on the plate you’re putting the cookies on. A brother in our ward made the comment once: don’t spend all your time putting the ‘gold leafing’ on an idea just move forward and do it.

I think many of us feel a sense of fear or reluctance as we think of reaching out to our neighbors or friends. I found this great scripture that perhaps helps us into the right frame of mind. It’s found in:

2 Timothy 1:7-8

7 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

8 Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.

Seeking After the One

That brings us to the final part of the priority, and the one I will end on. “seeking after the one”.

Again we turn to the example of the Savior. This is my favorite example in the scriptures of Jesus focusing on the one.

3 Nephi 17:19-22 – Jesus is visiting the people in the Americas after his death and resurrection. He has spent his time teaching and blessing the people:

19 And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.

20 And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.

21 And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.

22 And when he had done this he wept again;

I’m touched by this scripture and my mind is filled with a beautiful image of the Savior with little children all around Him. Each of them getting His full attention, if even just for a moment. Jesus knew each of these little ones, and loved them.

Our Savior is mindful of each of us. But I believe he is even more mindful of those he loves that are NOT here today.

Do we know who they are?

What does the Lord want YOU to do for them?

Some of you may have seen this next story passed around on email or Facebook, I’m not sure who the author is but I think it illustrates who can be a missionary:

Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back.

The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene. One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.

Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.

This is such a great example of showing concern for the one and putting the needs of the one before your own. Think of the blind man. He could have just told the other man he had no idea what was outside and was blind… the man would have understood. Instead he took the time and effort to do something unexpected. To bring desperately needed happiness at someone else’s time of need.

How much greater is the message of the gospel? To share of the true plan of happiness (the plan of salvation), and the only way for our families to be eternally with our Father and Heaven and our Savior again someday. What inconveniences should we be willing to endure to bring that into someone else’s life?

I do know this church is true. I know this gospel is the source of true joy and happiness and by living by it’s teachings we can find that happiness. I also know there are individuals seeking the peace and happiness this gospel brings. I have had opportunity in my own life to touch others and watch their lives change. I pray that each of us will have the courage and confidence to act on the impressions we get in this meeting here today and do whatever we can to gather more of our brothers and sisters. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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