The Gathering of Latter Day Israel

Oliver Cowdery
Oliver Cowdery
The Second Elder

President Oliver Cowdery was one of the founders of the Church, who with Joseph Smith received ministry directly from angels on several occasions. He was with Joseph when the Angel John the Baptist restored the Aaronic priesthood, and also when the Apostles Peter, James, and John restored the Melchisedec priesthood. He was the scribe who wrote most of the Book of Mormon as Joseph dictated it from the golden plates. Later Oliver supervised the printing of the Book of Mormon. He was one of the three witnesses to whom the Angel Moroni showed the Book of Mormon plates and other artifacts, and he heard the voice of the Lord testifying that the Book of Mormon had been translated correctly.

Later Oliver led the Church's first missionary effort—the taking of the Book of Mormon to the Indians on the frontier. He functioned as one of the presidents of the Church, under Joseph's direction, and was editor of the Messenger and Advocate. In 1836 he and Joseph saw the Lord in a vision in Kirtland Temple. His writings are important today because they provide insights into the understandings of those who received the gospel firsthand from the heavenly sources.

By Oliver Cowdery

Some of the first writings about the history of the Church were recorded by Oliver Cowdery in the form of letters to the editor of the Messenger and Advocate—which was the Church's paper published at Kirtland, Ohio. Brother Cowdery's letters are valuable today because they reveal the doctrinal understandings of the founders of the Church, which they had received firsthand from the Lord and angels. In the following article, Oliver discusses part of the message given to Joseph Smith by the Angel Moroni during the second vision, September 21–22, 1827. Oliver then continues to explain that Israel shall be returned and restored to Palestine. He also explains that the righteous among Gentiles shall be gathered to Zion before the great destruction among the remainder of the earth's population, which is to occur before Christ comes in Glory and the Millennium begins.

Moroni's Angelic Appearance to Joseph Smith Jr.

It may be well to relate the particulars as far as given. The stature of this personage [the Angel Moroni] was a little above the common size of men in this age; his garment was perfectly white, and had the appearance of being without seam.

Though fear was banished from his [Joseph Smith's] heart, yet his surprise was no less when he heard him declare himself to be a messenger sent by commandment of the Lord, to deliver a special message, and to witness to him that . . . "Therefore," says the Lord, "I will proceed to do a marvelous work among this people, even a marvelous work and a wonder; the wisdom of their wise shall perish, and the understanding of their prudent shall be hid; for according to his covenant which he made with his ancient saints, his people, the house of Israel, must come to a knowledge of the gospel, and own that Messiah whom their fathers rejected, and with them the fulness of the Gentiles be gathered in to rejoice in one fold under one Shepherd."

"This can not be brought about until first certain preparatory things [the Restoration Movement] are accomplished, for so has the Lord purposed in his own mind. He has therefore chosen you [Joseph] as an instrument in his hand to bring to light that which shall perform his act, his strange act, and bring to pass a marvelous work and a wonder. Wherever the sound shall go it shall cause the ears of men to tingle (see Doctrine and Covenants 43:5f), and wherever it shall be proclaimed the pure in heart shall rejoice, while those who draw near to God with their mouths, and honor him with their lips, while their hearts are far from him, will seek its overthrow, and the destruction of those by whose hands it is carried. . . ."

Moroni Foretold the Gathering of Israel

I gave, in my last [letter], a few words, on the subject of a few items, as spoken by the angel [Moroni] at the time the knowledge of the record of the Nephites [Book of Mormon] was communicated to our brother [Joseph Smith Jr.], and in consequence of the subject of the gospel and that of the gathering of Israel's being so connected, I found it difficult to speak of the one without mentioning the other; and this may not be improper, as it is evident that the Lord has decreed to bring forth the fulness of the gospel in the last days, previous to gathering Jacob. . . .

The Second Vision by Joseph Lewis

The Second Vision

Moroni explained the gathering of Latter Day Israel to Joseph, September 21–22, 1823. Painting by Joseph Lewis.

This being of so much importance, and of so deep interest to the saints, I have thought best to give a farther detail of the heavenly message, and if I do not give it in the precise words, shall strictly confine myself to the facts in substance. . . .

Most clearly was it shown to the prophet [David], that the righteous should be gathered from all the earth. He knew that the children of Israel were led from Egypt by the right hand of the Lord, and permitted to possess the land of Canaan, though they were rebellious in the desert; but he further knew that they were not gathered from the east, the west, the north, and the south, at that time; for it was clearly manifested that the Lord himself would prepare a habitation, even as he said, when he would lead them to a city of refuge.

In that, David saw a promise for the righteous (see 144 Psalm), when they should be delivered from those who oppressed them, and from the hand of strange children, or the enemies of the Lord; that their sons should be like plants grown up in their youth, and their daughters like corner-stones, polished after the similitude of a beautiful palace. It is then that the sons and daughters shall prophesy, old men dream dreams, and young men see visions. At that time the garners of the righteous will be full, affording all manner of store. It was while contemplating this time, and viewing this happy state of the righteous, that he further says: The Lord shall reign forever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations—Praise ye the Lord!

Isaiah, who was on the earth at the time the ten tribes of Israel were led away captive from the land of Canaan, was shown, not only their calamity and affliction, but the time when they were to be delivered. . . .

Isaiah continues his prophecy concerning Israel, and tells them what would be done for them in the last days; for thus it is written:

The word that Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. And it shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain of the Lord's house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. (Isaiah 2:2–4)

And the Lord will create upon every dwelling place of mount Zion, and upon her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night: for upon all the glory shall be a defence [sic] (or above, shall be a covering and a defence [sic]). And there shall be a tabernacle for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a place of refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain. (Isaiah 4:4–5)

And his people shall dwell safely, they shall possess the land forever, even the land which was promised to their fathers for an everlasting inheritance. . . .

For this happy situation and blessed state of Israel, did the prophets look, and obtained a promise, that, though the house of Israel and Judah, should violate the covenant; the Lord, in the last days would make with them a new one: not according to the one which he made with their fathers in the day that he took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; which, said the Lord, my covenant they broke, although I was a husband and a father unto them: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel:

After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and will write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:33)

Thus saith the Lord, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob's tents, and have mercy on his dwelling places; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof. And out of them shall proceed thanksgiving and the voice of them that make merry: and I will multiply them, and they shall not be few; I will also glorify them, and they shall not be small. Their children also shall be as aforetime, and their congregation shall be established before me, and I will punish all that oppress them. And their nobles shall be of themselves, and their governor shall proceed from the midst of them. (Jeremiah 30:18–21)

At the same time, saith the Lord will I be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be my people. . . . Behold, I will bring them from the north country and gather them from the coasts of the earth. (Jeremiah 31:1,8)

I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth. (Isaiah 43:6)

In those days, and at that time, saith the Lord . . . [though Israel and Judah have been driven and scattered, they shall come together, they shall even come weeping:  for with supplications will I lead them] they shall go, and seek the Lord their God. They shall ask the way to Zion with their faces thitherward, saying,  Come, and let us join ourselves to the Lord in a perpetual covenant that shall not be forgotten. (Jeremiah 50:4–5)

Watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye and let us go up to Zion, unto the . . . (holy Mount of the Lord our God; for he will teach us of his ways, and instruct us to walk in his paths). (Jeremiah 31:6)

That the way for this to be fully accomplished, may be prepared,

the Lord will utterly destroy the tongue of the Egyptian sea; and with his mighty wind shall he shake his hand over the river, and shall smite it in the seven streams, and make men go over dry-shod. And there shall be a highway for the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria; like as it was to Israel in the day that he came up out of the land of Egypt. (Isaiah 11:15–16)

And thus shall Israel come: not a dark corner of the earth shall remain unexplored, nor an island of the seas be left without being visited; for as the Lord has removed them into all corners of the earth, he will cause his mercy to be as abundantly manifested in their gathering as his wrath in their dispersion, until they are gathered according to the covenant. He will, as he said by the prophet, send for many fishers and they shall fish them; and after send for many hunters, who shall hunt them; not as their enemies have to afflict, but with glad tidings of great joy, with a message of peace, and a call for their return.

And it will come to pass, that though the house of Israel has forsaken the Lord, and bowed down and worshiping [worshiped] other gods, which were no gods, and been cast out before the face of the world, they will know the voice of the Shepherd when he calls upon them this time; far soon his day of power comes, and in it his people will be willing to harken to his counsel; and even now are they already beginning to be stirred up in their hearts to search for these things, and are daily reading the ancient prophets, and are marking the times, and seasons of their fulfillment. Thus God is preparing the way for their return.

The Gentiles To Be Gathered Also

But it is necessary that you should understand, that what is to be fulfilled in the last days is not only for the benefit of Israel, but the Gentiles, if they will repent and embrace the gospel, for they are to be remembered also in the same covenant, and are to be fellow heirs with the seed of Abraham, inasmuch as they are so by faith—for God is no respecter of persons. This was shown to Moses, when he wrote—Rejoice,  O ye nations, with his people! (Deut. 32:43).

In consequence of the transgression of the Jews at the coming of the Lord, the Gentiles were called into the kingdom, and for this obedience, are to be favored with the gospel in its fulness first, in the last days; for it is written, The "first shall be last; and the last [shall be] first" (Matt. 19:30). Therefore, when the fulness of the gospel, as was preached by the righteous, upon this land, shall come forth, it shall be declared to the Gentiles first (see Doctrine and Covenants 87:3c, 108:3a), and whoso will repent shall be delivered, for they shall understand the plan of salvation and restoration for Israel, as the Lord manifested to the ancients. They shall be baptized with water and with the Spirit—they shall lift up their hearts with joy and gladness,for thetimeof their redemption shall also roll on, and for their obedience to the faith they shall see the house of Jacob come with great glory, even with songs of everlasting joy (see Doctrine and Covenants 36:10h; 45:14), and with him partake of salvation.

Therefore, as the time draws near when the sun is to be darkened, the moon turn to blood (see Joel 2:31; Doctrine and Covenants 33:2a), and the stars fall from the heaven (see Mark 13:25), the Lord will bring to the knowledge of his people his commandments and statutes, that they may be prepared to stand when the earth shall reel to and fro as a drunken man (see Isaiah 24:20), earthquakes cause the nations to tremble (see Doctrine and Covenants 45:4f; 85:25a), and the destroying angel goes forth to waste the inhabitants at noon-day (see Psalm 91:6): for so great are to be the calamities which are to come upon the inhabitants of the earth (see Doctrine and Covenants 1:4a), before the coming of the Son of Man the second time, that whoso is not prepared cannot abide; but such as are found faithful, and remain, shall be gathered with his people and caught up to meet the Lord in the cloud, and so shall they inherit eternal life (see Doctrine and Covenants 85:27; 50:2a; 51:56).

(Messenger and Advocate 1:79–80; 109–112; titles, paragraphing, italics, and scriptural references have been added, and punctuation updated.)