Isaiah was a prophet for many ages. He was first and foremost, however, a prophet for his own times. The first 39 chapters of his writings were primarily directed to the House of Israel in his own day as well as the surrounding nations. There are, however, scattered throughout these chapters prophesies regarding the future. Though much of these writings were for Isaiah’s own time period, Nephi urged his reader to apply these teachings to any time period in which Isaiah’s writings are read (1 Ne. 19:23; 2 Ne. 11:8). Chapters 40-66 are prophecies primarily directed to the House of Israel in the latter-days. Whereas chapters 1-39 center primarily on Israel’s transgressions that led to their scattering, chapters 40-66 focus on Israel’s latter-day gathering and the millennial reign of Jesus Christ providing hope for the future. This focus of this article concerns Isaiah 54-56 and 63-65.
In this, and the succeeding chapters, Isaiah’s prophetic eye looked forward to the great gathering of Israel and their restoration to the land promised to Abraham. These latter-day events will be so impressive that, as Jeremiah said: “the days come, saith the LORD, that it shall no more be said, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, The LORD liveth, that brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north, and from all the lands whither he had driven them: and I will bring them again into their land that I gave unto their fathers” (Jer. 16:14-15). But to understand these prophecies, it is necessary that a discussion regarding the process of the scattering and gathering be given.
The Doctrinal Foundation of the Scattering and Gathering of Israel
It is imperative that any deliberation on the scattering and gathering of Israel begin with a doctrinal foundation: the Abrahamic covenant. Abraham was promised that he would have a posterity and that his posterity would be given a land where they could worship God the way He intended. Further, his posterity was promised that they would have the right to receive the gospel and that they would become a blessing to all the nations of the world (see Abr. 2:6-11).
Joseph Fielding Smith explained that one way Abraham’s posterity would be a blessing to all the nations of the world would be accomplished through the scattering of Israel. “Through the scattering of Israel among all nations by which the blood of Israel was sprinkled among the nations, and thus the nations partake of the leaven of righteousness, on condition of their repentance, and are entitled to the promises made to the children of Abraham” (Doctrines of Salvation, 3:246-247; emphasis added).
Therefore, as part of the covenant God made with the House of Israel (see Deut. 27-28; Josh. 8, 24) the Lord declared that if Israel broke the covenant, the Lord would “scatter the[m] among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other.” They would for a long period of time remain in an apostate condition. The Lord said they would “serve other gods, which neither th[ey] nor thy fathers have known, even wood and stone.” Having forsaken God, their lives would be miserable. He said to them: “And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind: And thy life shall hang in doubt before thee; and thou shalt fear day and night, and shalt have none assurance of thy life: In the morning thou shalt say, Would God it were even! and at even thou shalt say, Would God it were morning! for the fear of thine heart wherewith thou shalt fear, and for the sight of thine eyes which thou shalt see” (Deut. 28:64-67).
Though this punishment will not last forever, it would be the means of blessing the gentiles. How? Joseph Fielding Smith explained: “The Lord always turns punishments to the accomplishment of his purposes. The scattering of the Israelites among all nations was a punishment inflicted upon them, but a great blessing extended to the nations among whom they were scattered. . . .the scattering of Israel, especially the descendants of the ten tribes who mingled with the Gentile nations, the blood of Abraham had been mixed with the blood of the Gentiles, and in this way the Gentiles have been brought into the seed of Abraham, and are therefore entitled to receive, on conditions of their repentance, all the blessings promised to the seed of Abraham” (The Restoration of All Things, p.129-137).
The Process of the Scattering of Israel
Accordingly, when the House of Israel apostatized from the covenant, they were scattered throughout all the nations of the earth (see Jer.9:16 Ezek. 20:23; 22:15; 36:19; Amos 9:9; 1 Ne. 22:3-5; 3 Ne. 5:24; 20:12-13). The process of mixing Israel’s blood among all the nations of the earth took several hundreds of years. This seems to be one of the reason the long night of the apostasy lasted as long as it did.
The Book of Mormon reveals that in an attempt to save apostate Israel, the Lord took select groups of Israel and placed them in various places throughout the earth where they were privileged to retain the gospel. This was portrayed in the allegory found in Jacob 5. However, eventually these remnants lost the gospel through apostasy (see Jacob 5:30-40). Thus, the whole world, scattered Israel included, were in a state of darkness for several hundred years. Finally, after America had been colonized, and a country was founded that secured the right of religious freedom, the Lord saw fit that he would fulfill his covenant that he made with Abraham.
The Process of the Gathering of Israel Completed in Phases
The gathering of Israel commenced when the gospel was restored to the earth on April 6, 1830 and when Moses “committed unto [Joseph Smith] the keys of the gathering of Israel from the four parts of the earth, and the leading of the ten tribes from the land of the
Joseph Smith taught that the gathering of Israel consists of joining the Church and receiving the ordinances of the house of the Lord. Joseph Smith asked the Church, “What was the object of gathering the Jews, or the people of God in any age of the world?” He answered: “The main object was to build unto the Lord a house whereby He could reveal unto His people the ordinances of His house and the glories of His kingdom, and teach the people the way of salvation; for there are certain ordinances and principles that, when they are taught and practiced, must be done in a place or house built for that purpose” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 308).
The gathering of Israel is a process rather than an event. In an area conference talk given in Lima, Peru, in February 1977, Elder Bruce R. McConkie outlined the process of the gathering of Israel. The Ensign printed the talk under the direction of President Spencer W. Kimball (see heading, Ensign, May 1977, pp.
115). Elder McConkie explained that the gathering of Israel would be accomplished in three phases:
Phase I -- From the First Vision, the setting up of the kingdom on April 6, 1830, and the coming of Moses on April 3, 1836, to the secure establishment of the Church in the United States and Canada, a period of about 125 years.