Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Gathering and What I Thought I Knew

So, it has been nearly a year since my last entry. Life is busy. But the other day I learned something that has gotten me so excited that I feel the need to break my blog-fast.

I have always been taught and always taught others that the Gathering of Israel is missionary work. Furthermore, I have always been taught and taught others that when Moses appeared to Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery in the Kirtland Temple on April 6, 1836, the Priesthood Keys he gave to Joseph and Oliver were the keys of missionary work.

The canonized account, as read in D&C 110:11 says, "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."

The other night I was reading in President Joseph Fielding Smith's book, Answers to Gospel Questions (a must have for every LDS home as far as I am concerned), and found where he answers a question about the correlation between Moses' keys of the gathering and missionary work. You can read this yourself in volume 3:152-3. To summarize he essentially says that Moses' keys were not missionary keys. If that were true, then what right would Joseph Smith have in sending missionaries out into the world for the previous six years? So it would seem that the keys Moses restored were something else (assuming the logic is sound and I believe it is).

It is my understanding that the angelic ministrants that restored Priesthood Keys to the Prophet Joseph all restored Keys that were specific to the work they did in mortality. President Smith makes the point that Moses was not doing missionary work with Israel when he led them from Egyptian bondage. They already had the gospel. Rather, he brought them to Sinai to be endowed from on High in preparation for eventual entrance in the Promised Land.

Wow. I had never thought about it. Maybe you had. But I had not put it together. Joseph taught that "the main object [of gathering] was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom" (Teachings, p. 308). In D&C 84:2 the Lord says emphatically that He "… established [His Church] in the last days for the restoration of his people, as he has spoken by the mouth of his prophets, and for the gathering of his saints to stand upon Mount Zion…" And so it would seem to me (and I still can't believe I never pieced this together years ago) that the Priesthood Keys Moses is restoring relate to the Priesthood Keys both Elias (whom I think is Abraham) and Elijah restored; which all relate to the Temple. In my heart and mind it makes total sense.

So, this still leaves a question about the Priesthood Key of missionary work. The other night I happened to be reading a transcript of a lecture that Elder Bruce R. McConkie delivered at the University of Utah Institute of Religion in 1967 on the Doctrine of Elijah. In it he says that in 1829 when Peter, James, and John appeared to Joseph and Oliver they bestowed on the First and Second Elders of the Church three things: the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Keys of the Kingdom, and the Keys of the Dispensation of the Fulness of Times. Then Elder McConkie reminds his listeners that the last charge the Master gave His apostles before His ascension was to take the gospel to all the earth. The idea is that missionary work is inherent in the Melchizedek Priesthood and the Keys of the Kingdom which Peter, James, and John gave Joseph and Oliver. So, if I were to be asked when did Joseph receive the Keys of missionary work I would respond when Peter, James, and John appeared. Were I to be asked when did Joseph receive they Keys or authority to perform ordinances in the House of the Lord for Israel I would say when Moses appeared in the Kirtland Temple in 1836.

So what does all this mean in terms of the Gathering of Israel? A whole lot. It means that I need to broaden my own definition of what the Gathering of Israel means. Does it mean missionary work? Absolutely. But does it also mean Temple ordinances and brining the Lord’s people to the truth and endowing them from on High? Absolutely.

Because this is a concept that I am still getting my head around, I am not totally convinced that I am explaining it well. Feel free to ask questions so I can flesh out my ideas better. At the end of the day, this has enhanced my testimony and personal conviction that Joseph Smith and his successors in the Presidency are prophets of God.