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Bear with me for just a minute. Some of you may be familiar with the gathering of the House of Israel, but others may not be, and so I want to share the background for just a bit.
A long time ago, God made a covenant with the prophet Abraham. This covenant included many things, but one of the main things we’re talking about today is that God promised Abraham that his posterity would have the gospel. This promise was renewed through Abraham’s son Isaac and again through Isaac’s son, Jacob. Jacob had twelve sons. These twelve sons had their own families and they became the 12 tribes of Israel. These tribes grew and grew and grew. They fought a lot amongst themselves and as punishment from the Lord, they were scattered. As one example of this scattering, Lehi (who was literally born into the tribe of Manassah) was brought to America, and that was the promised land given for his posterity.
First, the tribes will be gathered spiritually and then physically. Being gathered spiritually means joining the church. If you’re not literally descended from Abraham, you’re adopted into the house of Israel when you make covenants and join the church. You are adopted into one of the tribes. So even if I don’t actually have any Israelite blood in me, I have been placed into a tribe and it was declared in my patriarchal blessing.
So that’s the spiritual gathering. There are unimaginable numbers of people out there who have Israelite blood and don’t even know it because their ancestors were scattered by the Lord around the world. However, God made a promise to Abraham a long time ago that his posterity would have the gospel. So. We have to take it to them.
When the physical gathering occurs, the Lord will gather the tribes to the lands that they were promised. Lehi’s family was promised land in America, and so much of the tribe of Manassah will be gathered in America. Judah will be gathered in Jerusalem. The physical gathering will not be completed until Christ has returned and taken us into the Millennium.
3 Nephi 20-22 talks about a lot of these prophecies. Christ is telling the Nephites that He will gather scattered Israel. Christ teaches the Nephites this truth:
3 Nephi 21:9 For in that day, for my sake shall the Father work a work, which shall be a great and a marvelous work among them; and there shall be among them those who will not believe it, although a man shall declare it unto them.
The marvelous work is the Restoration and the bringing forth of The Book of Mormon. Christ teaches the Nephites that this restoration and The Book of Mormon are the sign that the gathering has begun.
So what does that mean for you as an individual? You have the gospel. Whether you are naturally a descendent of Abraham or you have been adopted, you are a part of this family. And that’s really what it comes down to. The house of Israel all came through Abraham, and so really, they’re all a bunch of cousins. We were meant to be a part of this enormous family reunion.
As part of this family, Heavenly Father expects (not desires) but EXPECTS that you will share the gospel with your brothers, sisters, and cousins. When you get to the other side, Heavenly Father will ask you if you fulfilled this responsibility because it is your responsibility.
In a worldwide youth devotional, President Nelson and his wife, Wendy, invited the youth to participate in the gathering of Israel. Though it was given to the youth, the invitation to gather Israel has been extended to all of us from the Lord.
What were you born to do?
In that worldwide youth devotional, Wendy Nelson posed a question to the youth (and honestly, to all of us).
“The only thing that really matters is that you and I are doing exactly what we committed—even covenanted—premortally with our Heavenly Father we would do while we are here on earth.
So, let me ask you a question: What were you born to do?”
You have something to do while you’re here on earth. Part of that includes living the gospel and making covenants, receiving a body. But then there are responsibilities that Heavenly Father has only assigned to you. I testify that this is true.
I think of all of us long for purpose in one direction or another. And yes, we all have the purpose of coming to earth, growing, returning to Heavenly Father, and bringing others with us. But I believe we all long for an individual purpose.
I testify that you have one, and I further testify that it will fit you perfectly. Though it will require sacrifice and discomfort, it will fit and fill you to overflowing. Your personal responsibility will look different than everyone else’s. If you hate speaking in front of anyone or if you feel petrified to open your mouth about the gospel in any way, I testify that the Lord has a way for you to share the gospel that fits you. Perhaps it will be through music or art. Perhaps it will be through temple work because the gathering of Israel has to happen on both sides of the veil. Perhaps you will be called to teach countless numbers of people.
The Lord will give you power to do it
President Nelson, in the devotional, shared this truth. “It is my testimony that when we follow through with whatever the prophet of God asks us to do, the way will be opened and lives will be changed.”
The way will be opened. Though we have individual responsibilities to fulfill, this is the Lord’s work and He will accomplish it through His power. Christ also taught the Nephites about Joseph Smith.
3 Nephi 21:10 “But behold, the life of my servant shall be in my hand; therefore they shall not hurt him, although he shall be marred because of them. Yet I will heal him, for I will show unto them that my wisdom is greater than the cunning of the devil.”
The life of my servant shall be in my hand. He extends those promises to you when you have the courage to stand up and do His work. As you pray, search, and ponder and as you begin to realize the work that your Heavenly Father will have you do, you will feel inadequate. But it isn’t you. You are only the vessel. The Lord will accomplish His own work. The only thing you have to tell Him and show Him is your willingness to follow. Tell the Lord in your prayers that you will do what He asks and then follow through.
Spend your time and energy wisely
Both President Nelson and his wife cautioned about spending your time and energy wisely. Sister Nelson taught us that we don’t have to fulfill our missions. We have a choice. We don’t have to use our time and energy for the Lord. President Nelson invited the youth to disengage from social media.
Social media can take your soul away from you. If not in the form of pornography or crippling depression and loneliness, screen time will steal away your soul in the form of time. One day, you may wake up and realize that the countless hours devoted to phones, computers, and video games will have stolen your life away from you.
Don’t think I’m setting myself up as some kind of example. I get so addicted to my phone and computer that I’ve had my husband change my passwords so that I can’t log on. It was stealing my happiness. It was stealing time away from moments with my family. I was so depressed and anxious about the state of the world until I got off.
Social media has its place and time, but I warn you from personal experience, that it can steal things away from you and you may not even notice.
There are so many fulfilling and thrilling and life-changing ways to spend your time. A grand majority of these things will come in small steps and will not feel so thrilling in the beginning, but one day, you’ll look back and not be able to imagine your life without it. Learning to play the piano is so boring at first, but if you devote small periods of time, you’ll find yourself playing songs that excite you and bring meaning to your life. When you devote a small period of time to the scriptures, you will not become Neal A. Maxwell or Bruce R. McConkie overnight. That kind of knowledge and testimony is a result of a lifetime of devotion. A lifetime of twenty minutes here and twenty minutes there.
I beg you to pray to the Lord and ask Him what He would have YOU do, and then devote twenty minutes to it. Just twenty minutes. Anything. Put down distractions that do not serve you. My life means so much more to me since I limited my distractions. Please just try it for a week. I don’t know how to ask you more plainly.
We didn’t come to earth to waste time, go to school, go to work, or clean our houses. We came to become like our Heavenly Father and to help others come too. I promise, with everything in me, that if you put away distractions and spend small amounts of time a few times a week, you will find your purpose. That purpose will be thrilling to you, and you’ll find yourself bringing others to Christ without even meaning to.