3 Nephi 21: 26:
“And then shall the work of the Father commence at that day, even when this gospel shall be preached among the remnant of this people. Verily I say unto you, at that day shall the work of the Father commence among all the dispersed of my people, yea, even the tribes which have been lost, which the Father hath led away out of Jerusalem.”
Christ reiterates again the work of the Father is only at its “commencement” when the fullness of the gentiles is completed. The gentile day ends, the message goes to the remnant, and then will the work “commence at that day.”
We think the work was underway when Joseph initiated it. In one respect it was. But Joseph never lived to locate the remnant, nor to deliver the Book of Mormon to them, nor to see them return to believe in and obtain a renewal of their covenant with Jesus Christ. It was one of his great priorities. But Joseph was killed before the work advanced to the point which is called the “commencement” by the Lord in this prophecy.
The work of the Father consists in fulfilling covenants. His great latter-day work of bringing the return of the Gospel to the remnant, who had the promise, used Joseph Smith and the gentiles to lay a foundation.The work of the covenant, however, will commence when the gentiles hand off the restored truths, the record of the fathers, and the reminder of what great things are promised, to the remnant.
The work of the Father, once it commences, is not limited to restoring the remnant to their former status. It reaches to all those who had been “led away out of Jerusalem.” Therefore, all of those tribes who are “lost” to us, but are not lost to the Father, will be brought back and restored to the Lord.
This restoration of the lost tribes and return of the covenant is a subject Isaiah wrote and rejoiced about. I do not intend to take that detour in this post, but if you read Isaiah (particularly those portions quoted by Nephi), you will see how great a focus this final restoration has been.
We call our time the Dispensation of the Fullness of Time, because our time is leading to that return to fullness. However, in one sense Joseph Smith was much like the Protestant fathers who laid a groundwork for a greater, further return of light. They did not see the full return. We might.
From the time of Joseph Smith until now, however, we have neglected or forgotten a great deal of what Joseph was given. There are doctrines we circulate today that are incomplete or misleading. We have not been diligent, and as a result our conferences, meetings, associations and discussions continue to be too low, too vulgar, too condescending from what we were called to receive.
How few or many of us will be permitted to participate in the on going process of the Restoration remains to be seen. However, when the fullness returns, those who become the heirs will look back on the era of the Latter-day Saints with much the same reaction as we look back on the Jewish era in which Christ lived. They will be astonished at the great principles of truth we discarded, neglected or ignored. They will wonder in astonishment at our groveling to gain acceptance from a doomed and ignorant religious tradition calling itself “Christianity.” They will find it utterly incomprehensible that we argued we should be regarded as one of them, rather than proclaiming their doctrines are the commandments of men, having a form of godliness but lacking any power. They will wonder why we would trade the power of God for acceptance and popularity; particularly when we were told that pandering for popularity is at the heart of priestcraft. Why, they will ask, did the Latter-day Saints invest tithing in opinion polling and focus group testing to insure the language and opinions of doomed Babylon were employed in declaring what little we kept of the restored Gospel? Our failure will be clear to them, although we find it quite opaque. We still think we’re approved by the Lord, even though our condemnation is set out in scripture.
The work of the Father will commence in the future. What is underway at present cannot be what was intended to bring the return of the Lord’s Zion because we have neglected the ordinances, forgotten the teachings, and drifted into a “feel good” sentimentality which suggests that all of us are likely to be exalted. Using a gambling term to capture the grave risks we take, Deseret Book proclaims: “Odds Are, You’re Going To Be Exalted”–while they risk damning all those who are willing to gamble with them on such foolish, vain and untrue notions. Nephi condemned that foolish idea long ago in a book which, if we kept its principles, would have spared us from our current plight. (2 Nephi 28: 8.)