December 13, 2007

Gathering to Utah

Part 1 Orson Pratt April 6, 1856 Orson began this discourse stressing the importance of missionary work. The more missionaries, the more the gospel could be preached:

These are the things [preaching to all continents] that each one alone could not do; hence the more there are engaged of the Saints of the living God, having the same faith, bound together by the same great principles of righteousness, being of one heart and of one mind, the greater will be the works which can be accomplished in the earth; because such a people can spread forth on the right hand and on the left, and can proclaim to millions and millions of people, the glorious tidings of salvation at the same instant of time; while one man alone, though he have power to work mighty miracles, could only proclaim them to a few. In this respect, then, we are blest and we rejoice. Again, we rejoice, in another respect; the Lord our God has clothed His servants with power to bring the honest in heart together from the various nations and kingdoms of the earth, so that their strength might be collected in one, in order that their union and power might be greater, for the accomplishment of that which could not be accomplished in a scattered condition. In this respect, then, we are favored, as well as being favored with the privilege of spreading out our missionaries to the four quarters of the globe.
Part and parcel of the missionary message of former years was the great gathering; converts were urged to make the journey to the Utah Territory. (You thought getting people to make it to Church in their own location was difficult!) But why the gathering? Pratt emphasized unity and power in numbers:
But it may be asked, "What can be accomplished by a concentration of Saints, in one Territory, that could not be accomplished by them while scattered here and there?" I will answer you. If we were scattered forth, only among the people of the United States, instead of over the nations and kingdoms of the earth, we could not organize ourselves, so as to be governed by our own laws; but by a concentration of the Saints from the distant nations of the earth into one Territory their numbers give them power which they never could gain in a scattered condition. By their numbers, they can appeal with faith and confidence, and with a degree of assurance to the parent government of the United States, and say, "Give us a free and independent State." Without sufficient numbers, it would be useless to ask for admission. Hence, in the concentration of numbers, we are blest, as well as having power to preach to millions in all parts of the earth at the same time.
Orson discussed what he saw as the benefits of obtaining statehood; something the Saints had been aiming for since they first arrived in the valley in 1847. He believed their movements were directly fulfilling prophecy:
In what respect would it be a favor and a privilege for the inhabitants of this Territory, composed mostly of Latter-day Saints, to be organized into a free and independent State of this great republic? Among the many privileges resulting from a State government, I will mention one, namely, we should then have the privilege, according to the great principles contained in the Constitution of our country, of electing our own officers. The people would have the privilege of selecting those whom they desired, instead of being ruled over by those whom they desired not. Would not this be a favor? It certainly would. We should have the Constitutional privileges, as a free, sovereign, and independent State, which are enjoyed by all other States of this Union: in other words, we should more fully be made partakers of the blessings which our Lord promised to us, more than twenty-five years ago, which I will repeat from the Doctrine and Covenants, sec. 62, paragraph 2;- "It shall come to pass that they (my servants) shall go forth into the regions round about, and preach repentance unto the people; and many shall be converted, insomuch that ye shall obtain power to organize yourselves according to the laws of man; that your enemies may not have power over you, that you may be preserved in all things; that you may be enabled to keep my laws, that every band may be broken wherewith the enemy seeketh to destroy my people." [D&C 44:3-5] In other words, that you may not be tyrannized over by unrighteous governors, judges, and officers, that you have no voice in electing or appointing who may, according to their own will, trample upon your rights as American citizens. The prophecy which I have quoted has been fulfilled in part, indeed it has been fulfilled to a very great extent. True, we are not a free and independent State; but we are organized according to the laws of man; we have the privilege of making laws, not for one little village, or to govern one little city, or only a few miles square, but we have already the privilege of making laws, the influence of which extend over many villages, cities, valleys, settlements, and counties. All this has come to pass in fulfillment of the prediction, uttered more than a quarter of a century ago, [February of 1831] when the Church was not a year old, and very few in numbers. Have we not a reason to rejoice in the high and inestimable blessings, already received in fulfillment of the word of the Lord, especially when compared with the few privileges enjoyed by all the other nations of the earth?
The Church believes in the literal gathering of Israel, but also in a preparatory "spiritual" gathering.[1] According to the Gospel Principles manual:
The physical gathering of Israel means that the Israelites will be “gathered home to the lands of their inheritance, and shall be established in all their lands of promise” (see 2 Nephi 9:2). The tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh will be gathered to the land of America. The tribe of Judah will return to the city of Jerusalem and the area surrounding it. The ten lost tribes will receive from the tribe of Ephraim their promised blessings (see D&C 133:26–35).

When the Church was first established, the Saints were instructed to gather in Ohio, then Missouri, and then the Salt Lake Valley. Today, however, modern prophets have taught that Church members are to build up the kingdom of God in their own lands.[2]

Orson Pratt emphasized the strength stemming from a fundamental principle of the restored gospel: unity.
If all our ancient fathers who died in faith, holding the power of the Priesthood and the blessings of the celestial kingdom, are to be engaged, as the powers of heaven, to bring about and accomplish the purposes of the Lord in the last days, in the establishment of this kingdom, we may be sure that their united faith, together with the faith of the Saints here upon the earth, will bring to pass and accomplish that which could not be brought to pass in any former dispensation; for faith is a powerful principle-it comes by hearing, it increases by union, and it is made stronger by numbers... We are instructed to send for two or three Elders, because it is supposed that two or three will accomplish more than one can by officiating singly. Again, we are told that where two or three are assembled to worship the Lord in the right and proper way, they have claim to greater blessings than the man that bows down to worship by himself; and why is this? It is because, if united and pure in heart, their faith is greater. What mighty faith and greatness of power will be in exercise when all the ancient fathers, Enoch and all the inhabitants of his City, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph who was sold into Egypt, Moses, and all the ancient and modern men of God upon both the eastern and western hemispheres, are met together with one aim and with one object in view, to bring about and accomplish the great purposes of the latter days? Something will have to move when so great an amount of faith is united before God. No wonder, then, that the Lord has said that He has put forth His hand to exert the powers of heaven to roll forth this kingdom in the latter day! No wonder, then, that the Lord, through His servants, has predicted that the glory of Zion should become greater and greater, until the nations of the earth should fear and tremble because of her. No wonder, then, that there should be power enough centered among the Latter-day Saints to excite the distant nations of the earth, and cause many of them to come from afar to worship in His house upon the tops of the mountains!

Finally, Orson believed the unity of the Saints would span all who had ever lived:
The faith of the ancients was exercised to bring about this event-the ushering in of the latter-day work. They not only exercised faith to accomplish and bring about the purposes that pertained to their own day; they not only exercised faith to preach glad tidings of salvation to the generation in which they lived, but their faith reached down to the latter-day, as the day of rest. Through a long period of darkness of many generations which were to intervene between their day and the latter time, they saw that day of redemption when they should reign most gloriously on mount Zion with immortal bodies. They felt interested, then, in the sceneries that were to come to pass in the latter days; they felt interested in the glories that were to open upon the world, when their children should be made partakers of all that their fathers desired to accomplish and bring to pass in their own day, that which they sought for and found not, because of wickedness. If we had to depend upon our own faith alone, to bring about this latter-day work, it would be rather discouraging. The powers of darkness are so strong that our weak human natures might be overcome were it not for other powers that have great influence to aid and assist us. There are evil influences that are ever ready to throw iniquity in our path, and unless we were assisted by beings more powerful than we are, we should most certainly fail to accomplish the work assigned to us. Consider all these things, Latter-day Saints, and be filled with joy and give thanks to that Being who has thus gathered and established you here in these peaceful Valleys.
Footnotes: [1] President Joseph Fielding Smith discussed the spiritual gathering:
There are many nations represented in the … Church. … They have come because the Spirit of the Lord rested upon them; … receiving the spirit of gathering, they have left everything for the sake of the gospel.
(Joseph Fielding Smith, Doctrines of Salvation, 3:256.) [2] Chapter 42: "The Gathering of the House of Israel," Gospel Principles, 271. According to the Encyclopedia of Mormonism, the physical gathering petered out around the turn of the century when most land in the west was spoken for:
By the 1890s the Church, with its base in America secured and most good land in the West occupied, discouraged immigration and asked overseas converts to build up stakes in their homelands rather than gather to Zion.
See William G. Hartley and Gene A. Sessions, "Church History c. 1878-1898, Late Utah Period," Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 2, History of the Church. In 1977 Elder Bruce R. McConkie said:
“Every stake on earth is the gathering place for the lost sheep of Israel who live in its area. The gathering place for Peruvians is in the stakes of Zion in Peru, or in the places which soon will become stakes. The gathering place for Chileans is in Chile; for Bolivians it is in Bolivia; for Koreans it is in Korea; and so it goes through all the length and breadth of the earth. Scattered Israel in every nation is called to gather to the fold of Christ, to the stakes of Zion, as such are established in their nations”
(Bruce R. McConkie, “Come: Let Israel Build Zion,” Ensign, May 1977, p. 118).

The physical gathering of Israel will not be complete until the second coming of the Savior (see Joseph Smith—Matthew 1:37; Chapter 42: "The Gathering of the House of Israel," Gospel Principles, 271). For more on the gathering, see: Reflections on Gathering and the Prophet Joseph Instructions to Newcomers Omnipotence? of God

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