Zion – Israel's Gathering Place (1 Nephi 21)
1 Nephi 21 includes the Book of Mormon's first descriptions of a place and time period known as "Zion." Although there is much that can be written about Zion — and perhaps will be in future blog articles — this particular article focuses on Zion as Israel's gathering place, as described in chapter 21.
Scattering of Israel
The story of Zion begins with the descendants of Jacob (a.k.a. Israel), also known as the "House of Israel." The House of Israel were God's "chosen people," but due to their unbelief (especially in Christ), they found themselves scattered throughout the world. Even today, we only know of two of the twelve "tribes" of Israel (Judah and Joseph); the whereabouts of the other 10 are still unknown.
The first verse of this chapter indicates that the prophecies presented are directed to the scattered people of Israel: "Hearken, O ye house of Israel, all ye that are broken off and are driven out, because of the wickedness of the pastors of my people; yea, all ye that are broken off, that are scattered abroad, who are of my people, O house of Israel."
Gathering of Israel
God has a set time when all of the scattered tribes of Israel will be gathered together again. This period of time (still in the future) is referred to as the "Peaceful Reign." The designated gathering place will be a place called Zion. This gathering place will be somewhere in the Americas, and the principle city will be called "New Jerusalem" (see 3 Nephi 20-21 and Ether 13).
This chapter begins to describe this much-awaited gathering: "O house of Israel, behold, these shall come from far; and lo, these from the north and from the west … Sing, O heavens; and be joyful, O earth; for the feet of those who are in the east shall be established; and break forth into singing" (verses 12-13). What a joyful time this will be as Israel is reunited!
Role of the Gentiles
Perhaps those of us who are not part of the House of Israel may wonder why we should be excited about this gathering of Israel. Well, not only are we invited, but we get to be the escorts! As God says to Israel in this chapter, "Behold, I will lift up mine hand to the Gentiles, and set up my standard to the people; and they shall bring thy sons in their arms, and thy daughters shall be carried upon their shoulders" (verse 22).
Even as you read this, there are brothers and sisters from The Church of Jesus Christ in various cities throughout the Americas, inviting people from the House of Israel (specifically the Seed of Joseph) to this great gathering. Perhaps you, too, may one day have the opportunity to participate in this effort to "gather them in" and help usher in the period of peace in the place we sing about known as Zion!
Verse 2 and Chorus of No. 100 in the Songs of Zion
Long years of silence, born of distress,
Too full of sorrows to ever express;
But in pretty Zion their voices will ring,
Won't it be something to hear Israel sing!
Gather her babies, all her young men,
All her fair daughters, go gather them in;
Raise from the dust and the tears where they bow;
Won't it be something to see Israel smile!
Chorus of No. 6 in the Saints Hymnal
We are longing for the gathering
That will be forever blest;
We shall gather in Mount Zion,
Where we'll sing redeeming grace.
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.