This author has always appreciated 1 Nephi chapter 22 in that Nephi explains to Laman and Lemuel (and to all Book of Mormon readers) the chapters of Isaiah that were laid out previously. Hence, there is no misinterpretation of the most important parts of what will happen in the last days leading up to the second coming of Christ. This information is very basic, and ought to be known by every believer. Nephi begins with:
…for it appears that the house of Israel, sooner or later, will be scattered upon all the face of the earth, and also among all nations.
This is an important statement, since in the Old Testament times in which Nephi wrote, the house of Israel was relatively intact and contained in the area surrounding the Middle East. Hence, for the house of Israel to be scattered and spread throughout the world would seem drastic. But Nephi admits that this scattering had already begun, saying, “And behold, there are many (of the house of Israel) who are already lost…” (v. 4)
The reason of the scattering, Nephi explains, is the wickedness of the house of Israel. For, “…against him (the Holy One of Israel) will they harden their hearts; wherefore, they shall be scattered among all nations and shall be hated of all men.”
The period of being scattered, lost and fallen would bring on the Times of the Gentiles, in which the Gentiles—those who have NOT made a covenant with Christ in the pre-existence—would nevertheless play a role in their recovery as nursing fathers and mothers, and then afterwards “lick the dust of their feet.” (2 Nephi 6, 2 Nephi 21, Isaiah 49)
This describes both a blessing and a curing to Gentiles who would be dividing into two groups. For, “blessed are the Gentiles… if it so be that they shall (1) repent and (2) fight not against Zion, and (3) do not unite themselves to that great and abominable (LDS) church, they shall be saved;…” however, “they that fight against Zion and the covenant people of the Lord shall lick up the dust of their feet; and the people of the Lord shall not be ashamed.” (2nd Nephi 6:12-13)
Finally, after the Times of the Gentiles the house of Israel will be gathered again. Why? If scattering came from the unrighteousness of the house of Israel, then the gathering will be because of their returning again to the Lord in righteousness. Many times the scriptures refer to this “gathering” as the Lord restoring his people for a second time, and also as a marvelous work and wonder. (see 2 Nephi 6, 2 Nephi 25, 2 Nephi 26, 2 Nephi 29, D&C 137, Isaiah 11)
Essentially then, the house of Israel will go through a scattering (which has taken place) and then a gathering. In this gathering the Gentiles will either act as agents of the Lord in “set[ting] his hand to gather Israel the second time” (D&C 137) or will “fight against Zion and the covenant people of the Lord.” (2 Nephi 6)
Jesus compares this process, of scattering and gathering, to the temple being thrown down, only to be built again in the last days, saying (in D&C 45):
I will show unto you how the day of redemption shall come, and also the restoration of the scattered Israel. And now ye behold this temple which is in Jerusalem, which ye call the house of God, and your enemies say that this house shall never fall. But, verily I say unto you, that desolation shall come upon this generation as a thief in the night, and this people shall be destroyed and scattered among all nations. And this temple which ye now see shall be thrown down that there shall not be left one stone upon another. And it shall come to pass, that this generation of Jews shall not pass away until every desolation which I have told you concerning them shall come to pass.
…and when that day shall come, shall a remnant be scattered among all nations; But they shall be gathered again; but they shall remain until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled… And when the times of the Gentiles is come in, a light shall break forth among them that sit in darkness (Gentiles), and it shall be the fulness of my gospel; But they (Gentiles) receive it not; for they perceive not the light, and they turn their hearts from me because of the precepts of men.
It’s important to note that when the Lord speaks of “Jews” in the scriptures what is said pertains to the entire house of Israel, and since ten tribes are currently “lost,” the Jews in scripture commonly refers to the two houses of Judah and Joseph. Thus the commonly used phrase covenant people of the Lord and the Gentiles, is shortened by saying simply “Jew and Gentile” as in, for example, Nephi:
I have charity for the Jew—I say Jew, because I mean them from whence I came (the house of Joseph). I also have charity for the Gentiles. But behold, for none of these can I hope except they shall be reconciled unto Christ, and enter into the narrow gate… (2 Nephi 33)
Because we are in the midst of the transition between “scattering” and “gathering” an important question might be, how does one know if one is a Jew or Gentile (or Canaanite)? In other words, in this mixed up world where, as Nephi put it, “the more part of all the tribes have been led away; and they are scattered to and fro upon the isles of the sea; and whither they are none of us knoweth…” (1 Nephi 22) how will the Lord set in order his house?
The answer from the scriptures is, by Urim and Thummim, or in other words, by a Seer.
The Old Testament is a book with long sections of lineage documentation. After Nebekenezer, King of Babylon, killed and enslaved the inhabitants of Jerusalem, under kings Darius and Artaxerxes some of the house of Israel came back to Jerusalem, as recorded in Ezra and Nehemiah. But at that point they were so intermixed with those of Gentile descent through marriage (of Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, Jebusites, etc.) and child-bearing, that it was common for the inhabitants to not know whether they were or were NOT of Israel descent. For example, in Ezra 2, after 61 verses documenting descendants of those who returned from being taken captive, the scriptural record says:
These sought their register among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as polluted, put from the priesthood. [These] should not eat of the most holy things, till there stood up a priest with Urim and with Thummim.
This same dilemma is recorded in Nehemiah 7. As a future solution to the frustration of this quandary, the Children of Israel were told by the prophets not to marry outside of Israel, which commandment the people reminded each other originated with Moses, (see Numbers 36 & Nehemiah 10:29-30) and was not part of the Law of Moses, meaning that this law was NOT limited in duration.
This would mean that a person who has lost his genealogy, and is therefore stricken from the Priesthood, would need to have his lineage revealed unto him by a Seer of the Lord who possessed an Urim and Thummim. In the Book of Mormon when Ammon was asked by King Lemhi who had this authority, he mentioned only one person in all the land, which was King Mosiah.
A faithful, scripture believing follower of Jesus Christ will recognize the following truth, from the Prophet Moroni (Mormon 9):
For do we not read that God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and in him there is no variableness neither shadow of changing?
Why then would this pattern, established by the Lord, cease? Or what is more likely, that the Lord changed his way of verifying lineage, or that the Gentiles have corrupted the Lord’s way, and have not qualified themselves for the Priesthood which they claim they hold? After all, as stated by H. Verlan Andersen in his synopsis of D&C 121, “The conclusion drawn seems to have only one meaning; amen to the priesthood of almost all men.” (From Many are Called But Few are Chosen, Chapter III)
What the scriptures teach as to every solution will stand the test of time. In the days of Ezra and Nehemiah, the house of Israel had been established. Hence the Priesthood existed, but it did NOT exist among the Canaanites nor the Gentiles, NOR DID IT EVEN EXIST among those who were probably of the house of Israel, but could not prove their lineage. Only a Seer could restore to that person his Priesthood; for thus teaches the iron rod, the word of God, the Liahona, the words of Christ, holy writ, and the inspired words of prophets that we do liken unto our day.
The great scattering by the Gentiles has ended, and the great gathering—the marvelous work and a wonder spoken of by the Lord—has commenced. Blessed is he who is on the errand of the Lord, and who seeks to restore the apple of His eye, his great love, his flock, even Zion, his sucking child, even we who are graven upon the palms of his hands.
The truth is that today a native American (remnant) who knows nothing about the gospel—who remembers not the covenant he made to Christ in the pre-existence—is far more favored of God than a Gentile who adopts himself into a tribe of other Gentiles, and who would fain claim to the priesthood. For thus saith the Lord, I will not accept of their blemished offerings, and by and by the end cometh and they shall be even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite. Thus shall the pride of the Gentiles fall, and that great whore, who hath perverted the right ways of the Lord, yea, that great and abominable church, shall tumble to the dust and great shall be the fall of it.
And in that day Israel shall be gathered again, for the Lord is able to do his own work.
Take heed that you do not despise the word of the Lord, for he has given me authority that I should write. If these are not the words of Christ, Judge ye, for Christ will show unto you with power and great glory that they are his words, and you and I shall stand face to face before his bar, and you shall know that I have been commanded of the Lord to write for the benefit of Israel, and to be a witness of the Choice Seer of the Last Days, notwithstanding my weakness.