We believe in the literal gathering of Israel and in the restoration of the Ten Tribes; that Zion (the New Jerusalem) will be built upon the American continent; that Christ will reign personally upon the earth; and, that the earth will be renewed and receive its paradisiacal glory.
The Literal Gathering of Israel
The Mormon Church agrees with the biblical and secular historical accounts of the dispersion of the people of Israel. After the death of Solomon, the twelve tribes of Israel divided into two nations. Generally speaking, people of Judah and Benjamin became the kingdom of Judah, and the other ten tribes became the kingdom of Israel. The Assyrians invaded the kingdom of Israel about 721 B.C. and carried many of the people away captive. Aside from a few descriptive verses in the Bible Apocrypha, no historical information yet exists regarding this people after this, and they are called the “lost ten tribes.” The kingdom of Judah repelled an Assyrian invasion, but was taken captive by the Babylonians in 588 B.C. Later, many of the Jews were restored to Jerusalem, but never again could they restore their formerly great kingdom. They were under Roman rule during the ministry of Jesus Christ, eventually leading to the destruction of Jerusalem in 71 A.D. The Jewish people have largely remained scattered since then, and have continually struggled to regain their homeland. Although war-torn, a state of Israel has recently been established.
Mormon doctrine, received through revelation, upholds the reality of a literal gathering of Israel before the Second Coming of Christ. Book of Mormon prophets constantly reassured their people of this fact. Since the Book of Mormon peoples had fled Jerusalem just before the Babylonian Captivity, they longed for their homeland and felt like vagabonds and exiles in their new location. The promise of a regathering for their descendants was a comfort for them.
And I will remember the covenant which I have made with my people; and I have covenanted with them that I would gather them together in mine own due time, that I would give unto them again the land of their fathers for their inheritance, which is the land of Jerusalem, which is the promised land unto them forever, saith the Father.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, all these things shall surely come, even as the Father hath commanded me. Then shall this covenant which the Father hath covenanted with his people be fulfilled; and then shall Jerusalem be inhabited again with my people, and it shall be the land of their inheritance (3 Nephi 20:29, 46).
Note that the above voice is that of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and the true Messiah. He spoke these words when He appeared to the Book of Mormon peoples, after His resurrection. He also said,
And it shall come to pass that the time cometh, when the fulness of my gospel shall be preached unto them; And they shall believe in me, that I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and shall pray unto the Father in my name. Then shall their watchmen lift up their voice, and with the voice together shall they sing; for they shall see eye to eye. Then will the Father gather them together again, and give unto them Jerusalem for the land of their inheritance (3 Nephi 20:30-33).
This does not mean that Jews will come to the knowledge of the identity of the Holy One of Israel before they gather, but that when the time is right, that knowledge will be theirs. What begins as a literal, physical gathering to the lands of their inheritance will become an exodus to a holy city, a millennial city of Jerusalem, full of the knowledge of God.
Joseph Smith preached of the literal gathering of Israel, and foretold a mission for Orson Hyde to the Holy Land. Nine years later, still trying to recover from malaria, Orson Hyde was prompted by the Spirit to attempt the mission. Elder Hyde reported a vision wherein he saw London, Amsterdam, Constantinople, and Jerusalem. The Spirit said to him, “Here are many of the children of Abraham whom I will gather to the land that I gave to their fathers; and here also is the field of your labors.” Joseph Smith called Orson Hyde to go to the Holy Land, and through the Holy Priesthood power dedicate the Holy Land for the return of the Jews (History of the Church, 4:376). This he did on the Mt. of Olives on 24 October 1841. His dedicatory prayer was prompted by the Spirit and included a plea for fertility for the land. (To read Orson’s personal account and dedicatory prayer, click here.)
Mormon prophets and scriptures have also verified the reality of the future return of the 10 Lost Tribes. The Book of Mormon refers to the fact that the Tribes will have had prophets and kept their own scriptures:
For behold, I shall speak unto the Jews and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the Nephites and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto the other tribes of the house of Israel, which I have led away, and they shall write it; and I shall also speak unto all nations of the earth and they shall write it.
And it shall come to pass that the Jews shall have the words of the Nephites, and the Nephites shall have the words of the Jews; and the Nephites and the Jews shall have the words of the lost tribes of Israel; and the lost tribes of Israel shall have the words of the Nephites and the Jews (2 Nephi 29:12, 13).
The literal gathering of Israel will not just be to Jerusalem, for during the Millennium, there will be two centers of government for the theocracy of Jesus Christ.
And righteousness will I send down out of heaven; and truth will I send forth out of the earth, to bear testimony of mine Only Begotten; his resurrection from the dead; yea, and also the resurrection of all men; and righteousness and truth will I cause to sweep the earth as with a flood, to gather out mine elect from the four quarters of the earth, unto a place which I shall prepare, an Holy City, that my people may gird up their loins, and be looking forth for the time of my coming; for there shall be my tabernacle, and it shall be called Zion, a New Jerusalem (Moses 7:62).
This “New Jerusalem,” Zion, will be centered in Jackson County, Missouri.
The Spiritual Gathering of Israel
The Mormon Church considers itself engaged in the great work of gathering of Israel through its missionary effort. Mormon missionaries are sent throughout the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. Those who believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ become the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Thus, “house of Israel” refers to all believers. It appears that the literal descendants of these ancient forefathers are sensitive to the gospel message and likely to accept it. Other converts to the faith are adopted into the house of Israel and the Abrahamic Covenant. Therefore, the missionary work of the Mormon Church is gathering Israel by preaching to all nations.
Zion has both a literal and figurative meaning for the Mormon Church. First, it means the pure in heart, or the people of God. In this sense, Zion can be wherever there are believers living righteously. This definition comes from Mormon scripture, specifically the Pearl of Great Price: “And the Lord called His people Zion, because they were of one heart, and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there were no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). This is an account of the prophet Enoch, who established a city with no wickedness in it. This is the goal of the Mormon Church on earth, to emulate the righteousness of the people of Enoch.
During the millennium the earth will be changed to a state like it was before the Fall. No longer subject to the Fall, and the temptations of Satan, it will be a paradise for those living on it. At the advent of the second coming of Christ, all the faithful and just people who lived on earth will be resurrected and associate with those living on earth to help complete the Lord’s work. This too will be a phase in preparation for the end of the millennium, when the earth will go through a process of resurrection and be changed to a perfect state.
John saw this in his revelation, “AND I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Revelation 21:1).
At the end of the millennium, with the work of salvation done, all will be resurrected; Christ will deliver the kingdom to the Father, and stand to judge the world. The earth will be glorified and become the dominion of the most righteous of Heavenly Father’s children.