Is Every Nation the Gathering Place for its Own People?

The concept of gathering is a central feature of Mormonism. We often talk of the physical gathering of the early saints—a literal move together to establish a Zion-like society. And we talk of the shift, in later Mormon history, where “[e]very nation is the gathering place for its own people” (spoken by Bruce R. McConkie in 1972 and reiterated by Russell M. Nelson in Oct. Conference). But how literally are we to take this? Given recent global trends making “trans-nationalism” more possible, the Chinese Saint (for instance) could very well be born, raised, and die in America without even returning “home” to China. In this light is it still an injunction for the Mexican saint to gather to Mexico? The Nigerian saint to Nigeria? Etc.?

Should we still hold to the notion of “Every nation [as] the gathering place for its own people”? The larger question is how does globalization impact our conception of “gathering”?.]

8 Replies to “Is Every Nation the Gathering Place for its Own People?”

  1. It seems to me that globalization changes where people locate for economic reasons, but not necessarily for “gathering”. There is, however, another issue for encouraging the “mobile” class of the church to stay in their local areas. The reason is that those who are likely to be mobile are also likely to be leadership. If they leave, it creates a leadership vacuum.

  2. There was actually a formalish time when the gathering became more or less officially in one’s own nation. In an area conference held in Mexico City in 1972, Bruce R. McConkie said: “[The] revealed words speak of … there being congregations of … covenant people of the Lord in every nation, speaking every tongue, and among every people when the Lord comes again. … “The place of gathering for the Mexican Saints is in Mexico; the place of gathering for the Guatemalan Saints is in Guatemala; the place of gathering for the Brazilian Saints is in Brazil; and so it goes throughout the length and breadth of the whole earth. … Every nation is the gathering place for its own people.” (Mexico and Central America Area Conference, 26 Aug. 1972, p. 45.)The following April, President Harold B. Lee quoted those words in general conference, and, in effect, announced that the pioneering phase of gathering was now over. The gathering is now to be out of the world into the Church in every nation. (See Conference Report, Apr. 1973, p. 7.)Boyd K. Packer, “To Be Learned Is Good If … ,” Ensign, Nov. 1992, 71

  3. It seems to me that globalization changes where people locate for economic reasons, but not necessarily for “gathering”. There is, however, another issue for encouraging the “mobile” class of the church to stay in their local areas. The reason is that those who are likely to be mobile are also likely to be leadership. If they leave, it creates a leadership vacuum. I agree with you in regards to the issue of leadership, but your post raises two questions:1) Does globalization necessarily conflict with gathering? My assumption is that there is a necessary tension between the two as gathering currently defined calls for a bodily location according to nationality, and globalization implies the ability to transcend one’s particular locality (and perhaps the dissolving of nationalism—or at least a redefining of it). I guess what I’m looking for is further clarity in navigating this tension.2) This moves us onto the next question. What exactly does it mean to “gather” (and implied is, why are we to gather?)? I see the leadership issue as one of pragmatics, and only partially related to the theological issue at hand. For instance, as a Japanese Saint, must I live in Japan in order to be “gathered”? If I live in the US am I an “ungathered Saint”, or at least a disobedient saint for not following the counsel of the prophets? Furthermore, what if I was born in America? On the outside the issue is one of making sense of “nationality” in the current interpretation of gathering; and of clarifying the quote on the basis of ethnic and nationalistic complexities. At root is the question of how fit our theology is in a globalizing world, and how responsive it will be in light of new technologies that lead to the compression of time and space. There was actually a formalish time when the gathering became more or less officially in one’s own nation. I think I’ve addressed some of this above, but that’s exactly what my question is, seeing that Russell M. Nelson repeated the injunction to gather to one’s own nation, how does that still hold true in light of increasing globalism? As a Mexican saint should I return to Mexico?

  4. Of course there will be support and love for those who decide to come to another country, but having friends in So. America, we are aware that members of the Church are still being encouraged to stay in their countries and build Zion there. If one is in another country, I suppose the advice would be to ask God what He would have them do. I don’t know of anyone being asked to return to their countries of origin, although I wouldn’t be surprised if that is silently the hope (my own speculation there). Being gathered is coming into the fold through baptism and other covenants. I don’t think that someone is ungathered if not in the country of origin. I don’t think every person who isn’t in their country of origin is somehow gravely sinning, although there may be situations where it is an error of ways, especially if one has ignored promptings. Assuredly, there are situations where they could be doing more good for the kingdom by being in their country of origin.Why gather? Here are some thoughts:Presently, Israel is being gathered to the various stakes of Zion. … A stake has at least four purposes:1. [Stakes are] to unify and perfect the members who live in [their] boundaries by extending to them the Church programs, the ordinances, and gospel instruction.2. Members of stakes are to be models, or standards, of righteousness.3. Stakes are to be a defense. They do this as stake members unify under their local priesthood officers and consecrate themselves to do their duty and keep their covenants. … 4. Stakes are a refuge from the storm to be poured out over the earth (Ezra Taft Benson, “Strengthen Thy Stakes,” Ensign, Jan. 1991, 2, 4–5).The Prophet Joseph Smith taught: “What was the object of gathering … the people of God in any age of the world? … 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. … It is for the same purpose that God gathers together His people in the last days, to build unto the Lord a house to prepare them for the ordinances and endowments, washings and anointings” (History of the Church, 5:423–24).I think this latter quote demonstrates part of the reason gathering to different nations is so important. The more members we have in various nations, the more temples we can have all over the earth. Assuredly this strengthens the work of the Lord and provides refuge from evil and spiritual blessings in more lands. A couple more quotes:With the creation of stakes and the construction of temples in most nations with sizeable populations of the faithful, the current commandment is not to gather to one place but to gather in stakes in our own homelands. There the faithful can enjoy the full blessings of eternity in a house of the Lord. There, in their own homelands, they can obey the Lord’s command to enlarge the borders of His people and strengthen her stakes (see D&C 101:21; D&C 133:9, 14). In this way, the stakes of Zion are “for a defense, and for a refuge from the storm, and from wrath when it shall be poured out without mixture upon the whole earth” (D&C 115:6).Dallin H. Oaks, “Preparation for the Second Coming,” Ensign, May 2004, 7 Why is the gathering of Israel so important?To answer, we need only go back to Abraham’s commission. His “seed”—both his literal posterity and all those who accept the gospel—was charged to bless all the families of the earth with the gospel and the priesthood. In 1834 the Lord emphasized through the Prophet Joseph Smith that the Latter-day Saints “are the children of Israel, and of the seed of Abraham” (D&C 103:17). In 1836 the Prophet Joseph Smith received from the ancient prophet Elias the keys of the dispensation of the gospel of Abraham (see D&C 110:12). Thus, the blessings and responsibilities of the Abrahamic covenant have been restored to us.Whatever might have been the shortcomings of ancient Israel, today all Church members have the opportunity to carry out the assignment outlined so long ago. The assignment is inherent with their receiving gospel covenants. Latter-day Saints thus see themselves as performing some of the concluding scenes of an anciently prophesied plan that was put into motion thousands of years ago. As the seed of Abraham, all of us have the responsibility to gather both our kindred and all others who are willing to gather. By offering them a chance to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, we help them receive the blessings of the Abrahamic covenant and the opportunity of exaltation, and we further prepare ourselves to receive the blessings of eternal life.Paul K. Browning, “Gathering Scattered Israel: Then and Now,” Ensign, July 1998, 54

  5. Hey mullingandmusing,Thanks for supplying the great quotes. I found the Joseph Smith quote particularly interesting. Gathering for the purpose of temple building cuts along quite different lines than nationality and/or ethnicity. If one is in another country, I suppose the advice would be to ask God what He would have them do. To be frank, I agree with you, but this also seems to be a rather individualistic interpretation of Mormonism. How do you reconcile that with the clear statement to “gather to your homeland”? The General Authorities could have said, “Gather to the place God needs you to be. This may or may not be your country of origin, but gather for the purpose of temple building and strengthening the stakes of Zion.” But they didn’t. They could have added the caveat, “But we really hope faithful members who understand or are part of local culture to build the stakes of Zion in those localities.” Instead they framed the gathering issue on the basis of nationality and location of birth. I too know of no one that is considered an “ungathered saint”, but the question immediately arises as to why we don’t. Are we not taking the words of the prophets at face value (A potential response to this question could be that their statements are meant to reflect our past encouragements of gathering to Utah, and as such they are seeking to discourage any need people feel to relocate, whereas those who “must” relocate—similar to those who must work on Sunday—should do so)? Or have we accepted the fact that the church is (or could be) a diverse place, and thereby read into the quotes provided above to mean something other than they say (Such as you suggest that “Being gathered is coming into the fold through baptism and other covenants”)? Perhaps the latter option could be strengthened by the fact that they haven’t overtly corrected our (mis)reading. But I think one issue is that their comments cannot be literally likened to a diverse multi-ethnic, multi-national body of saints. Joseph Smith is really the only one who comes close.

  6. My thoughts aren’t terribly elegant, but as I understand it, the “gather-to-your-homeland” rhetoric was intended to counter the earlier explicit direction to gather to Utah (and perhaps recent reiterations were to counter a similar implicit understanding).I don’t think it’s an injunction against expatriating for work or other reasons. A lot of that is premised on my understanding of the gathering as being more spiritual/metaphorical than used to be the case.Pragmatically, the Church needs people who can operate the church everywhere it exists. But I seriously doubt there’s any postmortal significance to nationality.

  7. samdb,As I see the problem that diahman is pointing out is that the mandate was not just “don’t gather to Utah anymore”. It isn’t in the form of a negative command to not do anything, but it was a positive command to “gather to your homeland.” If they had said that we aren’t gathering anymore, so go wherever and do whatever you need to for economic, personal, or educational reasons, then you’re assessment is right. But, the also said that there was a mandate for Mexican saints to go to Mexico, etc. It does raise questions about nationalism and race.

  8. I think that the most important question is not how the changing effects of the world will influence policies or other matters of church counsel, but rather who the men called to lead really are, and what their calling really implies. the first thing we need is to have the conviction of whether or not these men really are called of God to serve as his literal mouthpieces. we also need the conviction that God doesn’t give any direction to his children, by his own voice or by the voice of his servants, that isn’t for their good. the purpose of all of these counsels is that we experience the maximum level of happiness that God, who knows us and the world we live in better than we do, has in store.

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