Gospel Principles 42: The Gathering of Israel

I love and am a little obsessed with Jewish culture and history, so the content of this lesson as it goes in the manual is a bit too cut and dry for me. Maybe even boring? But even so, I think a very different type of discussion can come out of what it means to gather Israel, both physically and spiritually.

I would start this lesson out by skipping the first section. I’m not sure where I fall on understanding the need to have a chosen people of God, so I would probably not get into a discussion of this aspect, though it could easily be mentioned that Jacob became Israel and his sons are the progenitors of the 12 tribes if there is a need for this clarification depending on the class members. I also don’t favor the view that we need to set ourselves up in an “us vs. them” mentality, so I would rather move along to the more inclusive aspects of the need to gather as a people.

That said, I think it would be interesting to test the knowledge of your class by prefacing the idea that in order to gather, something has to be scattered and separated. I would ask class members what their knowledge is of the events that led to the dispersal of the tribes of Israel, and use the second section for reference, or even acquaint yourself with more of the history for some fun fact sharing.

The third section, dealing with the reasons to gather Israel, is a bit more problematic in its use of forceful language, stating that as a people, we “must fulfill the covenant to be a blessing to all the world.” I would stay away from statements of must and shoulds, and focus more on the idea that “The house of Israel is now being gathered as they accept the restored gospel.” Now, I don’t necessarily think that members of the tribes of Israel, wherever they are found, are in dire need of the gospel in order to lead good lives or be on the path that God has laid out for them. Certainly, being exposed to the teachings of Christ may enrich their lives and bring them joy, but again, I would stay away from implying that their lives are not complete or that they will be better people by joining the Church. In any case, this leads on to the more meaty and I believe more pertinent fourth section of the lesson, the “how will the house of Israel be gathered”.

In this section, I think it is important to point out that though there was a more literalist belief in the early Church of gathering physically, that today, “modern prophets have taught that Church members are to build up the kingdom of God in their own lands.” However, I find it interesting that the scriptural reference in the lesson to 2 Nephi 9:2 infers a perspective that is quite similar to the beliefs and desires of the Zionist Movement. The Jewish people themselves (who identify as Zionists) as a remnant of the house of Judah, and not Israel in general, wish to be physically “gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and….. established in all their lands of promise.” I think part of this is the reason that we tend to conflate the gathering of Israel with the controversial act of Aliya and the establishment of a Jewish state, called Israel in a misleading and misunderstood political game. Many Jews are not in fact in favor of gathering to Jerusalem and consider it to be against the teachings of the Torah. Of course, much of this is neither here nor there in teaching the lesson, but it doesn’t hurt to be correctly informed of the differences and similarities between the two.

What is more important is our attitude toward conversion of what we consider to be the widespread descendants of the 12 tribes, some of which are still considered to be lost. It is unclear from the lesson whether we are accomplishing this intentionally, and seeking out the literal progeny of Israel’s sons, or merely progressing toward an ultimate goal by doing the work regardless. Proselyting and temple work appear to be moving us forward in the eyes of the Church, even though we are taught that the end result will not be accomplished before the coming of Christ. So it appears that the lesson itself is to serve as a reminder to be a member missionary and build up the kingdom wherever we may be, and to push more names through the temple to cover our bases.

But the take away message that I prefer to get from this lesson, is that it is important to come together spiritually in some fashion, and to strengthen each other by centralizing ourselves around Christ. The idea of gathering around a central focal point is appealing to me even when I feel to reject the attitude that we must convert the whole world to our perspective. I would personally lean more heavily on this aspect of the concept of gathering if I were teaching, and perhaps even explore what it means to gather around Christ and His teachings for a more spiritually nourishing and uplifting lesson.

Some questions I would ask are:
Why do you think Israel needed to be scattered and subsequently gathered? (Because I’m just curious what others think about this)
Do you believe all literal descendants of the tribes will need to join the Church before Christ comes again?
How do you feel about literal gathering places in our own Church history and prophecy, and how does this compare to the desire for Zionists to gather?
What purposes and benefits do you see in gathering as stakes in Zion around the world?
How can we “gather” around the message and teachings of Christ?
Can we do this and not be members of the LDS Church?

Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.

Corktree

Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.

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27 Responses

  1. Angie Lingo says:

    What happened to Lesson #41. ????? Will you be posting about that lesson?

  2. Amber says:

    Corktree, to have you as my vt and GD teacher would be amazing. Can’t you just move next to me? I might actually *want* to go to church. : )

    My thoughts.

    1) I take this idea to be symbolic of our hearts being scattered, or pushed, away from God and needing to come home to him.

    2) This is a hard question for me to answer, primarily because it doesn’t explain whether “the fold” includes everyone or only includes those of Judaic or European ancestry. This is especially troubling when heard in concert with many early teachings and philosophies on blacks and why they would never receive the priesthood. (Mormon Stories not-so-recent interview with Dustin Jones brought this to light for me: http://mormonstories.org/?p=1639) It also doesn’t explain the diversity in genetics and why God would be so inclusive as to only gather Israel. Anyway, questions beget questions no?

    3) I’m not informed enough to comment on the Zionist movement, but gathering to Israel in the history of the church has always made me smile. The church assumed that Christ would come at around 1899 (or whenever the polygamist manifesto was released), per Joseph Smith’s answer regarding this topic (you know, not before he is 89 or whatever the age was) so the literal gathering made sense. However, I think that gathering really set back the church when it came to changing policies. So many thoughts and policies reflected American pride that it has, essentially, marginalized those who are outside of the USA.

    4) I think gathering, in the figurative sense, is a way for us to build up strong communities. When we act to make our respective places better, we are, in essence, building up Zion.

    5) Urgh, still figuring this one out.

    6) I hope not. I also hope I can be my atheist/agnostic self and still be part of this gathering–at least the figurative notion behind it.

    • Corktree says:

      Thanks Amber. I’m not a very good teacher though. My brain goes to mush when I get up in front of people and my throat closes up. One on one, fine, but pushing past 5 or so and I lose composure.

      I love what you say about our hearts being symbolically scattered and needing to come back to God. Interesting and I think in line with the feeling and idea of gathering around Christ and what he represents.

  3. Amber says:

    P.S. I meant RS teacher, not GD teacher. : )

  4. Diane says:

    Can we do this and not be LDS?

    First, this particular question really makes me VERY, VERY angry and with good reason. There is a a mindset in the church that says, only members of the church are good people and can only get into heaven. I’ve been in Sunday School lessons and have read other people’s blogs, including one who proclaims to be a Stake President who emphatically states that people like Mother Teresa , The Dali Lama will never be able to get to celestial kingdom because she is not a member of the church. This truly incenses me. I firmly believe that there are some people on this earth who live lives that are more Christlike than any member of the church and this includes Thomas Monson.

    How do you feel about literal gatherings?

    To many Mormons that means they think they need to head to Salt lake once they become members. This again, is something that is cultural to Mormons. But, its not true, People need to remember you need to build up the communities where you live. We need to build and support members and non members alike. Comparatively speaking Catholics don’t think like this, they don’t feel the need to move to Rome to build up the kingdom.

    • Corktree says:

      I hope it was clear that I was playing devil’s advocate with that question. I feel the way you do Diane.

      • Diane says:

        cork tree, yes, I do, I just pointed it out because there are some people who really think if your not Mormon, you have no chance in getting to heaven.

        There is a blog that is supposedly written by a Stake President who actually stated that Mother Teresa will not get into the Celestial Kingdom and he was really proud of himself and his analysis of the situation. It was quite sickening

  5. Kelly Ann says:

    Corktree, Thank you for an excellent outline that really prods thought on the subject. I too would love to be in your class discussion.

  6. Mike H. says:

    Do you believe all literal descendants of the tribes will need to join the Church before Christ comes again?

    I don’t think that *all* of them will have to join the Church, but some of each tribe will need to join, to fulfill the scriptures.

  7. Ilona Swenson says:

    I come to the Exponent to gain outside views, besides mine and the manual, to add understanding and meat to the lesson. It amazes me that members can put so much time and effort into trying to out-guess Christ as to who gets into heaven – He is our mediator with God and God is a just God – I will leave it up to them to decide my fate according to my works – as they will every one who has ever lived – so, whether Mother Teresa, the Dali Lama, or President Monson makes it isn’t my concern. I do believe that Heavenly Father will call a prophet home before he allowes a prophet to mislead us. That said, thanks for the input and the different view on Lesson 42.

    • ginfin says:

      Thanks for your message Ilona. I was beginning to wonder who my sisters are. I personally believe that the gospel that I belong to is a gospel of love and inclussion. The last couple of lessons that I’ve read on the exponent make me wonder if we are trying to think so far outside the box that we don’t miss the mark on the basics of the gospel. The Father and Son’s infinite and perfect love for each of us. I do appreciate how much time, thought and love each of you obviously put into your studies. Thanks for being my sisters in the gospel! all best! G

  8. Sara says:

    Ok – love this because this is a subject I have never even thought much about (except for the time immediately surrounding when I got my Patriarchal Blessing).

    I’m researching this subject and trying to keep it pretty simple but also engaging. I was asked to teach this lesson in RS and there are usually less than 10 people in class and it’s often pretty quiet. I love the history part, I have a hard time with missionary work and the idea of “covenant people” so I’m going to have to look more into that as well, but what’s this question – “What benefits have come to God’s children because his Covenant People have been scattered across the earth?” I feel like the answer should be obvious and I’m just not getting it, which is slightly embarrassing.

    • spunky says:

      “What benefits have come to God’s children because his Covenant People have been scattered across the earth?”

      I think this is a complicated question; but in a nutshell, I think it is to protect them from pride and from overly-narrowing their focus. I mean, if you look at church history- often when church members became the majority, the church turned into a renegade bullying organization- the Mountain Meadows Massacre is an example of this. I think church members gain humility, have the opportunity for missionary work, and might be less likely to close their minds to other ideology when not in the majority.

      As well, having lived in the Australian bush for a period, and not having any other church members within the same town (and sometimes being closed off from road travel for a variety of reasons), I came to better appreciate sharing the sacrament with others, and gained a different experience in having it blessed in my own home with just my husband and me to share it. Other little things I otherwise took for granted- like the easy of delivering a meal or participating in a potluck, which became impossible with the great distance we were from the church and other members. In living “scattered” and “outside the fold”, I gained a perspective that I don’t think was possible for me to otherwise understand. That’s just me, though 🙂

  9. In response to your question:

    “Why do you think Israel needed to be scattered and subsequently gathered?”

    I’m going to rephrase the question and hopefully shed more light on the issue: Why do you think the family needed to be divided and subsequently reunited?

    The Israelites historically have been a very big family, sometimes called a tribe. Think about Abraham and Lot. Even though they were both very wealthy men with many flocks, they still lived relatively close to each other. This became a bit of a problem when Lot’s herdsmen started fighting with Abraham’s over water/grazing rights. It was then that they realized they were living a little too close. When you look at how Abraham handled this, he didn’t tell Lot to move so far away that they couldn’t see each others faces. No they were friends, so he simply said we need to move a little further apart so we aren’t crowding each other so much. Problem solved.

    I think the better question would be, Why do families get divided? In the days of David’s grandson Rehoboam, the Israelites where divided into the Kingdom of Judah and the Kingdom of Israel (the Ten Tribes). This happened because as this Wikipedia article states “the ten northern tribes of Israel rebelled.” Why did they rebel? Because they felt King Rehoboam was taxing them too much. These two kingdoms drifted further and further apart as time went by. Fast forward to the time of Christ and we find the Jews looking down on the Samaritans. Guess who the Samaritans were? The capital of the Kingdom of Israel was Samaria. They were Israelites! But the Jews didn’t recognize them as such. They were dirty apostates to the Jews. However, the Jews themselves had fallen into apostasy over time as well. They just didn’t realize it because they continued to say their prayers and perform the outward ordinances. So you see what a mess the house of Israel was in when Jesus arrived on the scene. This is why Jesus called them hypocrites, because they had come to love money more than their brothers and sisters.

    Before Jesus was martyred, he prophesied that the Jewish temple in Jerusalem would be destroyed. In fulfillment of this prophecy, in A.D. 70 the Romans drove the Jews from Jerusalem and destroyed their temple (which had been rebuilt with the help of King Herod). Thus not only was the House of Israel divided, but both of the new kingdoms were scattered.

    The 10th Article of Faith reads:
    “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.”

    This gathering has already begun. With the Restoration, Joseph Smith began gathering Gentiles out of the East, Canada, and the United Kingdom to Kirtland, Ohio and Far West, Missouri. The saints were ultimately expelled from Missouri and came to reside in Nauvoo, Illinois. That city grew to about 30,000 Mormons before Joseph was killed. Brigham then led all of the saints west to Utah. At some point we can expect the house of Israel (which includes the Ten Tribes, the Jews, and Lamanites) to gather and build a temple in Independence, Missouri. Christ will appear to his followers at the temple and take his throne to rule the earth in righteousness.

  10. Chrisytini says:

    Little disappointed here! It would be nice to get ideas and tips for the lesson as written and not as someone else re-writes it! These lessons are inspired and should be taught as written….it’s not for us to second guess what God has done and continues to do!

    • Kimberly says:

      Thank you for bringing me back to the simplicity of the lesson. I was getting very overwhelmed, especially since my simple mind does not comprehend all of these amazing ideas others have been sharing.

    • Robyn says:

      I totally agree with you! I think that when we start putting too much of our own interpretation on it, we can get off track and loose the Spirit. I also don’t think that we should avoid using “harsh” words when teaching if they are words from the scriptures, prophets or the lesson manual.

    • ginfin says:

      Thank you so much Chrisytini. I too am looking for interesting ways to teach the actual gospel concepts in the lessons themselves. We need to be “sister scriptorians” as charged in RS conference, but not rely on the arm of flesh and intellectually swap for a mess of pottage. I don’t mean to be “harsh,” I just think we may risk straying from the actual message of the scriptures.

  11. Corktree says:

    Thanks to those who gave their input. I would like to point out that The Exponent is a place where we do support each other as sisters, and as such, attempt to provide alternative interpretations of problematic lessons for those of us who feel alienated and depressed by certain attitudes and expressions in lesson material. We are not the only ones who feel this way and we try to offer a perspective that may help teachers to understand what other members of their class may feel and how to be more inclusive. We are not professional teachers and don’t have the ability to include every angle, and certainly no one has to take our suggestions.

    Maybe I should have focused more on what I thought was the positive aspect of the lesson, but I do believe I found a stronger relevancy to a gospel centered message by “thinking outside the box” on this one. Trying to form a lesson around how we can all gather around Christ’s teachings, both in and out of the Church, is to me one of the most gospel centered lessons I could hope for, but I’m sorry that my negative tone for the rest of it detracted from that. I hope that all teachers are prayerfully and mindfully preparing lessons that can uplift and spiritually nourish ALL members that they may be teaching, and please remember, these lessons (and even much of scripture) is written by man, not God, and I believe open to interpretation through our own filters as well as those of the authors.

    • staci says:

      I agree with others. In our attempt to be more inclusive and help others who may feel alienated, we surely don’t want to disregard certain words in the lesson and go to our own interpretation. We know that these lessons are prayed about– and every word is carefully reviewed by the General Authorities before printing. In the words of this last General Conference by Richard G. Scott, “Because scriptures are generated from inspired communication through the Holy Ghost, they are pure truth. We need not be concerned about the validity of concepts contained in the standard works since the Holy Ghost has been the instrument which has motivated and inspired those individuals who have recorded the scriptures.” I believe we can also include Lesson material as such and should not stray away from certain things because it might offend someone. Yes, be sensitive to sisters’ situations and feelings, but NOT TO THE POINT OF CHANGING THE LESSON MATERIAL to our own interpretation or completely skipping many sections of the lesson.

      • Alisa says:

        Staci, I need to remind you that choosing to see all lesson material as equal to the scriptural canon is very much your own interpretation, and is not an orthodox opinion endorsed by the Church.

        In fact, if you read the beginning of most of the lesson manuals, they encourage teachers to choose parts of the lessons that apply most to their class, tell them to use gender inclusive language where the manual only addresses the male, and make a number of changes. This was always in the Teachings of the Presidents manuals we taught in RS for several years when I was an RS teacher and counselor over education in the presidency. Adaptation and going by the Spirit is fundamental to a teacher’s calling. Anyone can read a lesson verbatim, and that’s not what a teacher is called to do.

  12. staci says:

    I am very surprised at Corktree’s comment that we should remember that much of scripture is written by man and not God, thus open to our own interpretation. That was the mistake of the Saints in the New Testament that eventually led to the apostasy–making their own interpretations and choosing what to believe/teach. Let’s remember the scripture in D&C 1:38: “Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.” The scriptures are written by the HAND of man, but it is through the revelation of God. They are absolute truth and cannot be tossed aside to our own interpretations. I think we would do well to teach strictly what is in the scriptures and lesson manuals.

    • Annie B. says:

      I actually agree with Corktree, but I’m pretty liberal in my views and not a good representation of LDS beliefs. I think there are many scriptures in the standard works that reflect the ideas of man rather than God. Studying church history has made me realize how many mistakes have been passed off as scripture, and it’s just as possible for that to happen today.

      I know many LDS would disagree with me, but I think the Richard G. Scott quote you cited is actually a pretty dangerous way of thinking. Although I think if you’re going to teach a lesson in an LDS meeting it would probably be a good idea to stick to the approved material. Which is probably why I don’t teach any lessons.

    • spunky says:

      Scriptures are not absolute truth, one only need to take an introductory Shakespearean coarse to know that any number of writers with political (not religious) leanings were asked to edit the King James’ version of the bible, as well as the numerous other bible interperatations (there is not one single bible).

      If you, staci, refuse to invite the spirit and to seek direction when reading the scriptures and just take it all as “perfect”, then I suspect you need to find a different church (when is the last time you washed with cinnamon in the temple, as per the book of Exodus?). Even the Gospel Doctrine handbook notes openly some scholarly assumptions about the authors of the bible and the potential meanings (see lesson 42 in regard to who James is thought to be, though unclear in biblical reference). In Mormon ideology, inspiration is the key, hence why did Christ teach in parables? Certainly not for literal translation and application.

    • ilia says:

      If we teach strictly from the scriptures and lesson manuals we are just reading the lesson to the class.

      I don’t think this is what the Lord intends, and Christ taught with parables and clarity.

      Joseph Smith if we hold to your theory would be considered a heretic with his idea of plural marriage, all persons can become a God, temple worship, writing scripture, etc.

      A lesson should be studied and understood by the teacher and researched. After a few days the person can formulate the focus of the lesson based on their personal experiences and inspiration and a lesson outlined.

  13. Shantell says:

    Thank you, Staci, for your comments. I needed to remember that exact scripture at that moment. You will never know how much I appreciate it.

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