Author’s Note: I delivered the following address to my Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints congregation a few months ago.
Ways that You and I Can and Do Participate in the Gathering of Israel
By Ken K. Gourdin
In an address delivered to the 176th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in October of 2006, now-President Russell M. Nelson spoke of our opportunity, our blessing, and our responsibility to help gather scattered Israel on both sides of the veil. In that address now-President Nelson said:
As prophesied by Peter and Paul, all things were to be restored in this dispensation. Therefore, there must come, as part of that restoration, the long-awaited gathering of scattered Israel. It is a necessary prelude to the Second Coming of the Lord.
This doctrine of the gathering is one of the important teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Lord has declared: “I give unto you a sign … that I shall gather in, from their long dispersion, my people, O house of Israel, and shall establish again among them my Zion.” The coming forth of the Book of Mormon is a sign to the entire world that the Lord has commenced to gather Israel and fulfill covenants He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We not only teach this doctrine, but we participate in it. We do so as we help to gather the elect of the Lord on both sides of the veil.1
It is about our efforts to gather scattered Israel on both sides of the veil that I wish to speak to you today. I would like to share three ways in which you and I can and do help to gather scattered Israel. First, we help gather scattered Israel when we seek after our kindred dead by doing family history. Second, we help gather scattered Israel when we help ourselves and others seek after kindred dead when we participate in FamilySearch Indexing. And third, we help gather scattered Israel when we do missionary work.
First, we help gather scattered Israel by seeking after our kindred dead and by helping others do the same. From the New Testament, we know that Christ appeared in the Spirit World and performed and organized missionary work there. In the book of First Peter, chapter 3, verse 19, we read:
19 By which also he [that is, Christ] went and preached unto the spirits in prison;
20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.
Similarly, in the same book, in the next chapter, chapter 4, verse 6, we read, “For for this cause was the gospel preached also to them that are dead, that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.”
We might change that was to an is, since, while Christ did teach in the spirit world between His death and resurrection, that teaching continues today, according to Joseph F. Smith’s vision of the spirit world recorded in Doctrine and Covenants Section 138. In fact, President Smith mentions the scripture from First Peter chapter 4. In verses 33 and 34 of section 138, referring to those who died without hearing the Restored Gospel, President Smith testifies:
33 These were taught faith in God, repentance from sin, vicarious baptism for the remission of sins, the gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands,
34 And all other principles of the gospel that were necessary for them to know in order to qualify themselves that they might be judged according to men in the flesh, but live according to God in the spirit.
The Apostle Paul taught the Corinthians, in the 15th chapter and the 29th verse of his epistle to them, “Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead? If the dead rise not at all, why are they then baptized for the dead?” I hope all of us have been able to catch the vision of this work by participating in that great, sacred ordinance—especially our youth. Incidentally, some biblical scholars who are not members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints do not contend that the verse I just read is a mistranslation, but, rather, that it refers to a practice of the ancient Christian church which since has been lost to history. To the contrary, we as Latter-day Saints know that baptism on behalf of our deceased ancestors is alive and well as a part of our efforts to gather scattered Israel.
Second, we can participate in the gathering of scattered Israel as we perform FamilySearch indexing, which takes information from a handwritten or other hard-copy record and converts it to a typed, computerized, searchable record. Transforming handwritten or other hard-copy records into searchable, electronic records enables ourselves and others to find information about ancestors, which then can be used to prepare that ancestor to receive the saving and exalting ordinances of the Temple.
In a January 26, 2017 story about FamilySearch indexing in the Deseret News, staff writer Trent Toone quotes FamilySearch indexing project manager Michael Judson, who says:
“Indexing has revolutionized family history research. Finding one ancestor is all it takes for someone to have a deeply emotional experience that will stay with them for a lifetime. And all it took for that name to become searchable is for one other person to decide to take a few minutes to index it. One name, one batch, one volunteer — it all adds up — and when we start combining our efforts over an extended period, the results are staggering.”2
What joy would you feel if you were able to find the record of an ancestor which had been indexed by a fellow Latter-day Saint? What if you were able to index the record of a fellow Latter-day Saint who had been searching anxiously for one of his ancestors? Anyone in this room who can read and who can type can participate in FamilySearch indexing, and I invite you to do so.
Continuing the theme of the joy that can come from participating in the gathering of Israel, the third we can participate in the gathering of Israel is through missionary work. Just as ordinances performed on behalf of our deceased ancestors help gather Israel on the other side of the veil While many of us have participated in full time missionary service and others of us will do so, a formal call to full-time service is not necessary for us to experience the joy of helping to gather Israel through missionary work.
Perhaps a good place to start would be to refer to the Ward Mission Plan which is printed on each program. I refer you to that three-step plan now:
Step 1: Meet – Introduce yourself to your neighbors, be kind, be outgoing, be friendly.
Step 2: Greet – Talk to people you see. Take an interest in them, be casual and genuine.
Step 3: Share – Once you’ve established a relationship and when prompted, share the joy of the gospel.
I testify that our lives will be blessed as we help gather scattered Israel: they will be blessed when we seek after our kindred dead, when we help ourselves and others seek after kindred dead by performing FamilySearch Indexing and when we perform proxy ordinances for them, and they will be blessed when we reach out as guided by the Holy Spirit to share the Restored Gospel with our friends and neighbors.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 Nelson, Elder Russell M. (October 2006) “The Gathering of Scattered Israel.” 176th Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as published in Ensign, November 2006, accessed on line at https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2006/10/the-gathering-of-scattered-israel?lang=eng.
2 Toone, Trent (January 26, 2017), “Reflecting on 10 years of FamilySearch indexing and going forward,”
Deseret News, accessed on line at the following address on July 26, 2019: https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865671843/Reflecting-on-10-years-of-FamilySearch-indexing-and-going- forward.html.