In the middle of this prophecy of remnant return and gentile holocaust, comes the reminder again of the Lord’s primacy. Look to Him. Him alone. He is the one raised up to save mankind. He is the gentile hope.
“And it shall come to pass that I will establish my people, O house of Israel. And behold, this people will I establish in this land, unto the fulfilling of the covenant which I made with your father Jacob; and it shall be a New Jerusalem. And the powers of heaven shall be in the midst of this people; yea, even I will be in the midst of you.”
The Lord will establish His people, including all of the “house of Israel.” The plan is global. But when it comes to the Americas, His people are those in the audience at the moment He was speaking to “this people.” And the land of promise for them is “this land.” Meaning that wherever it was that Christ was speaking involved two things: The ancestors of the remnant, and the land of promise.
How does one repent when they have rejected the fullness? Would it have been easier to have accepted it when first offered? When did we neglect receiving it? If taken, how was it taken? How do we obtain it anew?
These seem to be important issues. They seem to involve the very subject of life and death, both mortally and eternally. Why, if so important, do we go about telling one another “odds are you’re going to be exalted” when such alarms as these exist in Christ’s own words in the Book of Mormon? What foolishness have we been given in place of the “plain words” of truth which Nephi and Christ Himself taught?
Do we get angry at the truth like Laman and Lemuel? (2 Nephi 1: 26.) Do we take the truth to be a hard thing? Why do we get angry at the truth? Do we accept truth and welcome it, or think it is a terrible thing when we hear it? (2 Nephi 28: 28.) Do those who are offended at the truth really have the spirit of the devil? (2 Nephi 33: 5.)
The Book of Mormon is the cornerstone of our religion; the cornerstone of the religion of Jesus Christ. It is the most correct book. A man can get closer to God by abiding its precepts than any other book. We have had it warning and inviting us for 180 years and we still have not actually either learned its precepts nor begun to abide by them.
The remnant will be the instruments of Divine retribution against the gentiles. It will be the remnant’s “hand” which “shall be lifted up upon thine adversaries.” And it will be “all [the remnant’s] enemies [which] shall be cut off.” So, who will be the remnant’s “adversaries?” Who will be their “enemies?”
The Lord is, after all, the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. When He invites us in meekness to come to Him, we should realize that failure to come risks the judgments that have always been terrible to bear. Those Old Testament events we have a difficult time associating with Christ will become associated with Christ again. Just as His New Testament judgments were His and terrible to behold. He is the same. We should expect that when the time ends and we have not met our appointment, we actually do risk rejection and judgment.
But the gentiles would occupy the land on condition. They would need to serve the God of the land, who is Jesus Christ. (Ether 2: 12.)
When they do, Christ will “bring the fullness of my Gospel from among them.” (3 Nephi 16: 10.) Upon removing the fullness, and the gentiles being filled with their pride, priestcrafts, deceits and hypocrisy, the Lord will use the remnant who remain to return judgment upon the gentiles in the same manner the gentiles had earlier returned judgment upon the remnant. (3 Nephi 16: 15.)
But the Lord will prove that He had more to say when the gentiles learn, too late, they trusted in the arm of flesh rather than in the Spirit which saves. (2 Nephi 28: 31.) At that day, despite all the gentile petitions for relief from that God whose fullness they rejected, none will deliver.
“And the Father hath commanded me that I should give unto you this land, for your inheritance. And I say unto you, that if the Gentiles do not repent after the blessing which they shall receive, after they have scattered my people—”
Christ is speaking to a group of people and their descendants when making these remarks. The Father has commanded Christ to confirm to the Nephites they are given this land. “This land.” So now the question of where Christ was while making these comments becomes important.
Where were they at the moment Christ spoke to them? That affects things, doesn’t it? Was it Guatamala? Or the United States?
There are two ways of trying to determine the answer to this question. One would be to study the internal content of the Book of Mormon and try to reconstruct a location based on the clues there. This has been done with varying results. The two leading works on the two leading theories have been referred to in this post. There is another theory that the area was in the Gulf of Mexico. The land was completely reformed, broken up, and altered as a result of the upheavals of the 3 Nephi destruction, and the land no longer appears as it did once. It is now underwater. You can work and justify a number of locations based on the content of the Book of Mormon.
The other way is to take other sources that presumably knew, and accept what they said about the location. I’ve already quoted from both Moroni and Joseph Smith about the location. Both have placed the events in the area now known as the United States. Moroni’s description of the Book of Mormon, and its people, was as follows: “He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang.” (JS-H 1: 34.) I presume Moroni knew, and that Joseph had no reason to misstate what he said. It would appear that the continent referred to by Christ using the words, “this land” was North America. And the promise from the Father, made by covenant, was with “the former inhabitants of this continent.”
It will not matter if the particular “remnant” is anywhere “upon the face of the earth” they will be “gathered in.”
Why would they necessarily be “gathered?” What is the purpose of “gathering?”
Which is more important, to gather physically or to gather “to the knowledge of the Lord their God?”
How could people gather “to the knowledge of the Lord their God?” What kind of “knowledge of the Lord God” will be involved? Do you get that knowledge by supporting men in their callings? Do men and their callings even matter? Can you grow in knowledge of God by following, even memorizing, a handbook; following, memorizing talks and inspirational literature? What does a person need to follow, to do, to abide by in order to gain “knowledge of the Lord their God?” What about those who testify to you about programs and personalities, but never preach about Christ and Him crucified?
Do true messengers speak about one another, or about their Lord? How can a man, any man, save you? Who alone has the capacity to redeem you? Is “knowledge of the Lord their God” related also to knowledge that He “hath redeemed them?” Can you “know” Christ and not acquire in the process of knowing Him the knowledge that He “hath redeemed” you?
Do you come to understand He has redeemed you by also coming to know Him?
Do you begin to see a pattern of consistent prophetic foreknowledge of the last days? Do Christ’s words in this message of the Book of Mormon give any greater reason to believe in the promises?
If these promises are made by Him, should you expect it possible for you to go ahead and “gather in” to Him even before there are others willing to do so? Can this “gathering in” occur in your lifetime, for you? If God is no respecter of persons, then what would you need to do today to obtain the same blessings others will receive as they “gather in” in perhaps greater numbers in the future? Is it possible to do that? Are you willing to try?
It seems to me this doctrine is important in a macro sense in understanding prophetic promises and future gatherings. But it is perhaps more important in the micro sense, in that anything promised to anyone in any age is always available on the same principles to anyone willing to abide them at any time. (D&C 130: 20-21.) Do you really believe these teachings of our Lord? Then why not act on them?
I know these things are truly within the reach of almost all of you. The overwhelming majority of readers of this blog have lived better lives than I have You are almost all better qualified than I was. I believed these things, trusted the Lord, acted on His promises. As a result, I am among those who has been “gathered in” and I “know the Lord my God,” having been “redeemed by Him.” It is more than possible for you.
“And verily, verily, I say unto you, that when they shall be fulfilled then is the fulfilling of the covenant which the Father hath made unto his people, O house of Israel.”
There is an upside to every prophecy, even in those predicting calamity. The upside consists in two things: First, avoiding the judgment by being prepared for it. (D&C 38: 30.) Second, recognizing it so as to not be alarmed or lose faith because of it. (D&C 1: 3.)
We’ve seen some of what the remnant is defined to mean. We’ve seen the definition in the Book of Mormon excludes gentiles. We’ve seen the converted gentiles comprising the Latter-day Saints are still defined as gentiles after conversion.
We’ve seen that the first formal mission called after the establishment of the church was sent to the Lamanites to find the remnant. We’ve seen how the mission went no further than the boundary where the Indian Nations were relocated by the US Government in 1830. What we haven’t discussed is the interest Joseph Smith had in locating the remnant throughout his life.
When he was fleeing Nauvoo in late June, he intended to go to the Rocky Mountains. That was the location chosen precisely because it was where he hoped to find the remnant. He was talked into returning by those who claimed it was cowardly for him to flee. They used the Lord’s analogy about the false shepherd who would flee when the flock was in danger. (John 10: 11-13.) He reportedly said “if my life is of no value to my friends, it is of no value to myself.” He returned. With that, Joseph’s attempt to locate and identify the remnant came to an end. However, before his final surrender, his intention was to go to the Rocky Mountains to locate the remnant.
The following entry appears on June 22, 1844 in Vol. 6, page 547 of the DHC: “About 9 p.m. Hyrum came out of the Mansion and gave his hand to Reynolds Cahoon, at the same time saying, ‘A company of men are seeking to kill my brother Joseph, and the Lord has warned him to flee to the Rocky Mountains to save his life. Good-bye, Brother Cahoon, we shall see you again.’ In a few minutes afterwards Joseph came from his family. His tears were flowing fast. He held a handkerchief to his face, and followed after Brother Hyrum without uttering a word.”
In his final public address Joseph said, among other things: “You will gather many people into the fastness of the Rocky Mountains as a center for the gathering of the people …you will yet be called upon to go forth and call upon the free men from Main to gather themselves together to the Rocky Mountains; and the Redmen from the West and all people from the North and from the South and from the East, and go to the West, to establish themselves in the strongholds of their gathering places, and there you will gather with the Redmen to their center from their scattered and dispersed situation, to become the strong arm of Jehovah, who will be a strong bulwark of protection from your foes.” (“A Prophecy of Joseph the Seer”, found in The Fate of the Persecutors of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 154, 156.)
There is a well known quote that speaks volumes when considered as a whole: “I want to say to you before the Lord that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and Kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it. It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America–it will fill the world. It will fill the Rocky Mountains. There will be tens of thousands of Latter-day Saints who will be gathered in the Rocky Mountains, and there they will open the door for the establishing of the Gospel among the Lamanites. …This people will go into the Rocky Mountains; they will there build temples to the Most High. They will raise up a posterity there, and the Latter-day Saints who dwell in these mountains will stand in the flesh until the coming of the Son of Man. The Son of Man will come to them while in the Rocky Mountains.” (Millennial Star, Vol. 54 (1852), p. 605.)
We’ve seen how the primary effort to build the city of Zion will be the remnant’s, and the gentiles will merely “assist” in the construction.
To see the remnant’s role is more important than to understand their identity. Their identity will come. But their role is distinct and important. We are not them, and they have a destiny appointed them by covenant and promise. We cannot substitute ourselves for them. Nor can we fulfill the prophetic promises without them.
Christ had some specific teachings about the remnant we have not yet examined. We’ll turn to that to add to our understanding of the remnant role:
“Ye remember that I spake unto you, and said that when the words of Isaiah should be fulfilled—behold they are written, ye have them before you, therefore search them—“
Christ is speaking and will turn to the future destiny of the Nephites. By the time this statement was made, however, the Nephites were mingled with all other bloodlines. There were shortly to be no more “ites” but only one people. (4 Nephi 1: 17.)
The destiny of the future remnant will unfold in conformity with words spoken by Isaiah. They are adequate to foretell the future of the events involving the people on this, the American land. But we are supposed to “search them” to be able to get an understanding of what will unfold.
There is a plan. It was all foreseen. It will happen as the prophecies describe. However we need to trust the language and not impose other ideas upon the words.
When Joseph had made a sufficient “offering” and “acknowledgments,” the Lord gave another opportunity for the Saints to receive again what had been taken from them, that is the “fullness of the priesthood.” (D&C 124: 1, 28.)
To be permitted to undertake this, however, there would be a limited time appointed. After that appointment, the church would be rejected. (D&C 124: 31-32.) The time is not specified, but the work was to be undertaken by sending “swift messengers,” (D&C 124: 26) and gathering all the Saints together with their gold, silver, antiquities, and precious things to construct this Temple. (D&C 124: 26-27.)
The Saints gathered to Nauvoo and by 1844 the population had swollen to 12,000. There were shops, brick homes, stores, and a Masonic Hall constructed in Nauvoo. There was a gunsmith shop, a university, library and wide streets. Unlike other frontier towns with adobe and log homes, Nauvoo boasted brick houses and affluence. This community was superior to anything else along the western boundary of the United States at the time.
When Joseph and Hyrum were killed on June 27, 1844, the Temple walls were not completed and no portion had been dedicated. After Joseph’s death, the Saints rededicated themselves to finish the Temple. The exterior walls were completed in December, 1844 and the final sunstone put into place with some considerable difficulty.
On March 16, 1845 Brigham Young asked the Saints to rededicate themselves to building the Temple, promising them blessings if they would redouble their efforts to complete the building. On the following day 105 extra laborers showed up to help. (History of the Church 7: 385-87.) It was not until 24 May 1845 that the capstone would be laid.
Joseph was dead for 18 months before the endowment was administered in the Nauvoo Temple on December 10th, 1845. Those who had been given some instruction regarding the Temple in Joseph’s brick store, used what they had learned before Joseph’s death to perform the ceremonies. A portion of the attic was temporarily dedicated for this work, even though the structure was incomplete. The final endowments were performed on February 7, 1846. On February 8, 1846 the Twelve prayed in the Temple to be able to finally complete and formally dedicate the Temple. The following day the Temple caught fire, damaging the area that had been used for the endowment requiring repairs to be made. A week later Brigham Young’s party departed Nauvoo with the Temple still incomplete, but Nauvoo was a magnificent city that showed enormous culture, prosperity and success.
If you have visited Nauvoo since the beginning of the Church-sponsored Nauvoo Restoration, Inc. work, you know how amazing the city was when abandoned by the Saints. It was a tribute to labor, dedication, and perseverance. The Temple was incomplete and still under construction – not at all ready for dedication, but the city was a marvel. As the church leadership departed to the west, they left instruction to complete the Temple even though it would not be used.
Finally, on April 29, 1846 the Nauvoo Temple was complete enough to dedicate. The following day a private dedication service was conducted by Wilford Woodruff, Orson Hyde and about twenty others. The prayer was offered by Joseph Young, Brigham’s brother. The next day a public dedication service was held with those attending charged $1.00 entrance fee to help pay those who had worked in completing the structure. In this dedication ceremony Elder Hyde offered the prayer and included the following: “By the authority of the Holy Priesthood now we offer this building as a sanctuary to Thy Worthy Name. We ask Thee to take the guardianship into Thy hands…”
The following Sunday Elder Hyde explained that the Temple needed to be completed for the church to be accepted by the Lord with our dead. He commented that the work had only been accomplished “by the skin of our teeth.” (Wilford Woodruff’s Journal 3: 43.)
By September, 1846 a mob overran Nauvoo, and the caretakers gave the keys to the Temple doors to the mob. The mob was eventually shamed into returning the Temple to the caretakers and on October 20th the keys were returned to Brother Paine. The trustees of Nauvoo then tried to sell the Temple, but the best offer received was $100,000. A Missouri newspaper reported that the Temple was sold in June, 1847 to the Catholic Church for $75,000, but that the sale failed because of a defect in the title to the property.
On October 9, 1848 the Nauvoo Temple was destroyed by an arsonist.
In March, 1849 the French Icarians purchased the hollow shell of the destroyed Temple. On May 27, 1850 a storm blew down the north wall and made the structure so dangerous that it was further torn down to make it safe. Pieces of the blockwork were then sold and some of them were transported to be used in building projects outside the community, including to St. Louis. By 1865 the city removed what little remained. The site was then used for saloons, slaughter houses, hotels, grocery and drug stores, pool halls and private houses. (“The Nauvoo Temple”, The Instructor, March 1965.)
From the time of Nauvoo until the present day, every President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints either lived in Nauvoo between January 1841 and June 1844, or descended from those who lived there during the time. (Although some were called on missions and abandoned families who resided there for some of that time.)
Church history takes the view that Nauvoo was a triumph, and the Saints succeeded in accomplishing all that was required of them, and more. The stories of heroism, sacrifice and devotion that focus on the Nauvoo era are endless. Those families who trace their geneology to ancestors in Nauvoo at that time defend the notion that the they are specially favored as families, and are among the noble and great chosen to lead others in mortality because of their great devotion and sacrifice.
The promise of a remnant holding authority and performing a central work in the establishment of Zion, as prophesied by the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, would be a dramatic change in course for the church. This is something that will occur in any event. Indeed, coalitions, conspiracies and man’s arm will be powerless to prevent it. Unlikely history is the stuff of scripture.
Prophecies will be fulfilled. Despite vanity and foolishness, error and unbelief, prophecies will be fulfilled
When you speak of bloodlines and blessings, it is not possible to follow the details of interconnections across generations with any amount of accuracy. Even Joseph Smith, while certain of the remnant’s existence and importance, was not certain of their identity. They needed to be found. Although some groups showed promise, they were not, and have not, been identified.
There were rumors of a people in the southwest, who made rugs, that may be the group.
There are those who are convinced the Hopi are the people. Hugh Nibley has spent time with the Hopi and written a great deal about them. He seemed satisfied they were likely the chosen remnant. He studied their year-end dance festivals and believed they contained elements of sacred narrative identifiable with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I have LDS friends who have spent time among the Hopi who have the same view.
I do not believe it is necessary to identify who the remnant is. It is important to realize there is a prophetic destiny of a remnant, and to have a little humility about the limited gentile success which has been prophesied. But to go further than that is not always wise.
Everything in the Lord’s plan is timed. You cannot change the timing. If, for example, you hurry to get where you think Zion will be established, and arrive before the burning and cleansing of that land, then you may have found the right spot, but you arrived at the wrong time. You will be killed, burned off the land as it is purged and prepared. The Lord alone controls timing. And timing is as important as any other portion of the Lord’s plan.
Also, to identify the remnant beforehand is ill- advised. They will be identified in the ordinary course of events. They will fulfill their prophetic destiny. As it unfolds, it will be natural, appropriate and in accordance with the hand of God. There will be no need to force Zion.
Those who are the remnant may well be Hopi. Or, they may come from Hopi blood, if that is indeed the remnant bloodline. But during the time between the closing of the Book of Mormon history and the opening of American history, how many from that bloodline departed or were captured and carried away to another place. If only one left and migrated into Canada, later to intermarry and leave descendants, who have now intermarried and live in Alberta, Montana and Idaho, then they may have long ago lost any identity with the Hopi. But they may still be heirs according to the bloodline that is theirs.
How do we know the remnant does not now include businessmen in Mexico City, families in Peru, a physician in San Francisco, or a housewife in Florida, all of whom have the blood of the remnant within them, but they are without any knowledge of it? Nor can we know if there were intermarriages and migrations which make northern Mexico and Arizona filled with people who are the remnant, heirs of the promises, and destined to one day return to the faith of Christ. Who knows but what the in-migration of those regarded as “illegal aliens” currently inside the United States are not in possession of the blood that qualifies them as heirs of the promises.
They exist. They are known to the Lord. There may be great areas and people, as well as disbursed and assimilated individuals who are among those who are heirs. It is not important to “find” them in one sense, but critical that they be found in another. They will self-identify. That is, those in whom the promises will be fulfilled will act consistent with the promises. They will become known as they engage in the prophesied conduct. They will convert. They will become reunited through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They will shake off the dust of history, arise and become glorious. They will blossom as a rose and build the New Jerusalem. We will not control that. It will be them awakening, not us attempting to assimilate them into our culture and society. The Indian Placement Program didn’t work because it was not the means by which they are to be found. Pushing our culture on them will only create errors their return is intended to cure. And so the timing and means are critical for this to unfold in accordance with the Lord’s plan.
If you were to know for certain exactly who was to fulfill the prophecies, and to visit with them today, you may be profoundly disappointed. Until the time is right, they won’t be ready either. They will awaken on time. But until that time, you cannot rouse from slumber those who are not ready to awaken. That it WILL happen is certain. But the time is as important as any other component of the event.
Do the remnant people even know they are the Lord’s and heirs of promises in the Book of Mormon? Probably not. They, the remnant, are to learn of these things from the gentiles. (2 Nephi 30: 3.) Therefore it is unlikely they will know anything about it until the record of the Book of Mormon is delivered to them by the gentiles. So if they are to learn about these things from the gentiles, the first step will be educational. Gentiles need to become converted to the beliefs of the Book of Mormon, then bring these correct beliefs to the remnant. The remnant may have a glorious destiny, but not until after first the gentiles who believe in the words take them to the remnant and teach them.
Even if you knew the Hopi were the right people, that does not accomplish what the promises foretell. The remnant must be taught the truth. That will be taught by believing gentiles. We don’t have many of those yet. So to deliver a copy of the Book of Mormon to a Hopi and expect that to result in spontaneous combustion producing light, truth and glory is at best a naive notion and at worst absolute foolishness. It won’t happen that way. The right people must be brought the right message by a believing gentile, preaching the fullness of the Gospel to them. When that happens, Nephi’s prophecy may begin to unfold. We lack qualified gentile ministers at present. They labor under condemnation for not taking the Book of Mormon seriously or remembering the covenant made within it. So the first step is to convert a few gentiles.
Nevertheless, this is an important subject and worth taking time to understand. But with this, as with almost everything else in the Gospel, having it measured correctly and weighed in proportion is the only way to understand. So we proceed step by cautious step to try and dismantle false and corrupt notions, and to assemble the true ones. You must be patient to understand the Lord’s plan. And therefore we proceed patiently in this subject, as well.
When Joseph and Oliver went to seek answers about baptism on May 15, 1829, they explained the motivation for the inquiry. They report they were inspired “after writing the account given of the Savior’s ministry to the remnant of the seed of Jacob, upon this continent.” (Messenger and Advocate, Vol. 1, p. 15, October 1834.)
“The Book of Mormon is a record of the forefathers of our western Tribes of Indians,” Smith wrote to N. C. Saxton, editor of a Rochester, New York, newspaper. “The land of America is a promised land unto them,” where they would be instrumental in building a New Jerusalem.” [Taken from Ronald Walker’s paper: Seeking the Remnant; one of the first publications to take the role of the remnant found in the American Indians as a serious matter of study.]
On their mission to the Lamanites, Oliver and Parley were interviewed by newspapers as they went on their journey. The Telegraph published in Painesville, Ohio, on 16 and 30 November 1830, made the following mention about Oliver’s interview: “He proclaims destruction upon the world in a few years. We understand that he is bound for the regions beyond the Mississippi, where he contemplates foundinga ‘City of Refuge’ for his followers, and converting the Indians, under his prophetic authority.” Cowdery also reportedly spoke of an about-to-rise Indian prophet, who would bring these events to pass.
Parley Pratt’s autobiography discusses the Mission to the Lamanites. He describes how the missionaries didn’t even hesitate in their mission after their tremendous success at Kirtland. They changed the entire center of gravity for the Church by the Kirtland conversions. But they retained their focus on the target of the remnant, whom they had been sent to teach. This was the first organized missionary effort after the organization of the church, and the target was the Lamanites. The priority and focus was remarkable, when you consider the abundance of potential white converts all around the tiny start-up church. It gives some indication of how important Joseph regarded the Lamanite remnant to be as an obligation for the restored church.
Winter did not slow their journey toward the western frontier and border with the relocated American Indian tribes. Here’s a brief excerpt from Parley’s writings:
“We halted for a few days in Illinois, about twenty miles from St. Louis, on account of a dreadful storm of rain and snow, which lasted for a week or more, during which the slow fell in some places near three feet deep. …In the beginning of 1831 we renewed our journey; and, passing through St. Louis and St. Charles, we traveled on foot for three hundred miles through vast prairies and through trackless wilds of snow–no beaten road; houses few and far between; and the bleak northwest wind always blowing in our faces with a keeness which would almost take the skin off the face. …We often ate our frozen bread and pork by the way, when the bread would be so frozen that we could not bite or penetrate any part of it but the outside crust.
“After much fatigue and some suffering we all arrived in Independence, in the county of Jackson, on the extreme western frontiers of Missouri, and the United States.” (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, p. 40.)
Parley’s account continues and explains how two of the missionaries took employment as tailors in Independence while the others crossed the boundary and “commenced a mission among the Lamanites, or Indians.” (Id. p. 41.) They taught the Shawnees, then the Delaware, including the chief over ten tribes of Delaware. The sermon delivered to the gathering called by the chief, delivered by Oliver Cowdery, is set out on pp. 42-43 where it is clear Oliver understood the Delaware were descended from the Book of Mormon people. The chief replied: “We feel truly thankful to our white friends who have come so far, and been at such pains to tell us good news, and specially this new news concerning the Book of our forefathers; it makes us glad in here–placing his hands on his own heart.”
Although the Indian reaction was favorable, the Indian Agents were alarmed at the Mormon success. In particular they did not want the upstart religion to gain a foothold among the relocated Indians, and began to interfere with the missionary efforts.
Of interest to us, however, is Oliver’s mention of the Rocky Mountains as the ultimate destination of the missionary effort, to be “with the Indians.” (The Telegraph, Plainsville, 18 January 1831, cited by Walker, above, on p. 9.) Walker writes: “Smith gave a revelation requiring Sidney Gilbert to open a store in western Missouri that would allow ‘clerks employed in his service’ to go unto the Lamanites and ‘thus the gospel may be preached unto them.’ He also issued a confidential revelation that presaged the introduction of plural marriage. This latter statement promised that the elders would intermarry with the native women, making the red man’s posterity ‘white, delightsome, and just.'” (Seeking the Remnant, p. 10, Citations omitted.)
This early focus on the duty to find and preach to the remnant was not a passing concern. It was far more central to the early efforts than we realize as we review the events today. Today the view of the Lamanite remnant’s role is, if anything, superficial. To the earliest converts, they were central. They would remain a focus of interest throughout not only Joseph’s life, but also into the early part of the western migration. Indeed, the western movement of the church itself was related to locating the remnant.
Now there are a number of prophecies given in the Book of Mormon or Doctrine and Covenants which relate to why the remnant were a priority for Joseph Smith and the early church of this dispensation. The further we get from those times, however, the more we seem to forget the underlying reasons. We have become so successful as an organization, and prosper in every economic, political and social measure that it is hard to remember things. When Presidential candidates, the leader of the United States Senate, the Ambassador to China, business and educational leaders are members of the church, we do not relate as well to the promised cataclysms. Where once we may have welcomed destruction to end our persecutions, now we fear what we would lose. Our former poverty made us fear nothing in the destruction of the world, but now we have a great deal to lose and therefore we want to continue as we are. We have even redefined the term “remnant” to mean us, the Latter-day Saints, as if redefining it will remove the prophetic threat posed to the gentiles. (See Children of the Covenant, May, 1995 Ensign, the General Conference talk by Russell M. Nelson; in particular the interpretation given in footnote 15.) The careful distinctions between the remnant of the Book of Mormon on the one hand, and the gentiles on the other, has been forgotten, or altogether lost in our modern teachings. But that does not alter what Nephi or Christ meant in their prophecies that we still read in the Book of Mormon text.
We’ve worked to establish a basis for understanding the distinctions for several months now. With that foundation we will continue our search for understanding where we find ourselves in history, what group we are identified with and what we should expect in the coming calamities.
Zion was intended to be built in the center of the last part of Lamanite land available in 1831. The fact that the gentiles were expelled does not mean the site for building Zion was automatically changed. The Lord reiterated Zion wasn’t changed. The gentile children may be scattered, but the site would remain. More importantly, the Lamanite children were being scattered as well. The picture was changing on both sides of the line separating “Jew from gentile” in the years following the 1831 revelation.
By 1838 the conflict between Mormons and Missourians had escalated to the point that it was called the “Mormon War.” The election battle at Gallatin on August 6, 1838 is at one end, and Joseph Smith’s surrender at Far West in November, 1838 at the other.
Missouri was lost to the Saints. The natives voted to expel them, and Governor Lilburn Boggs signed the Extermination Order on October 27, 1838 requiring Mormons to be exterminated or driven from the State of Missouri; a curious piece of Americana that was not rescinded until some 137 years later on June 25, 1976 by Missouri Governor Christopher Bond.
Joseph spent the winter of 1838-39 in the Liberty Jail, and in March, 1839 wrote a letter from which we have taken three sections of the Doctrine and Covenants, Sections 121, 122 and 123. The possibility of building in Missouri was lost, at least for the time.
The Saints moved to Commerce, renamed it Nauvoo, and started a new city. This one was also identified not only as “Zion” but as the “cornerstone of Zion.” (D&C 124: 2.) So, although “Zion” was not to be moved, by 1841 the “cornerstone of Zion” was now in Nauvoo. This is not a contradiction. Zion has never been moved. But the Lamanites were moving, the Saints were moving, and the opportunity to locate it in the places where it could have been constructed earlier were no longer relevant.
We read the words of Section 101 to mean that the location remains in Independence, Jackson County. It is possible, however, there is another meaning. That is, the location hasn’t changed, although temporary opportunities existed earlier. It wasn’t built earlier, and will be built, but when it is built, it will be at the place always prophesied for its construction. Zion was to be located on the top of the high mountains. (Isa. 40: 9.) Jackson County has no mountains, no mountain range, no possibility of fulfilling the promised environs for establishing Zion. (Isa. 2: 3.) Make the descriptions “spiritual” if you want, but a mountain setting is clearly required for the prophesied Zion. (Psalms 133: 3; Isa. 52: 7; Joel 3: 17; Micah 4: 2; 2 Ne. 12: 3; D&C 49: 25; among others.)
Zion was always intended to be built upon the mountain top. (Isa. 30: 17.) Even a valley location in Salt Lake cannot answer to the description given in prophecy. A valley floor is not the “top of the mountain” upon which the beacon will be set. Zion has never been moved. Nor will it. In the same revelation which confirms Zion will not be moved, the Lord spoke of the Saints profaning the land earlier identified as Zion. “For all those who will not endure chastening, but deny me, cannot be sanctified. Behold, I say unto you, there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances. They were slow to hearken unto the voice of the Lord their God; therefore, the Lord their God is slow to hearken unto their prayers, to answer them in the day of their trouble.” (D&C 101: 5-7.)
If jarring and contending can pollute Zion, are we ready for it now? If envy and strife will make it unacceptable, how prepared are we to gather to Zion now? If lustful and covetous desires will make it unfit for an inheritance, are we above those weaknesses now? So, how soon ought we expect the establishment of Zion to get underway?
All of this is an aside to the subject of the remnant. But it is an important aside. The remnant will build the city of Zion. In 1830, when the earlier inhabitants were relocated to the area immediately adjacent to Jackson County, had the city been built it would have been there. It wasn’t time. It also wasn’t the place. So, although the future of that place may be glorious at some point, the city of Zion to be built by the remnant, would necessarily be built where the remnant is located. Their location, if it answers to the description of prophecy, would be mountainous, in the top of the mountains, and a suitable place for refuge during a time of upheaval. We’ll follow the events of the 1840’s with that in mind.
From the beginning of the United States the Indians were a political problem in need of a solution for both State and Federal government. Various conflicts and battles resulted in temporary solutions. By the time we reach the end of the 1820’s, a more general solution was needed. Andrew Jackson came to office with a plan to deal with the problem.
By 1831, after the relocation was well underway, the closest a white man could get to the Indians was Independence, Missouri. When you left Independence heading west, you would encounter the line dividing the land and establishing the territory the Federal Government exercised control over for the benefit of the tribes located there. It was for this reason the revelation given in 1831 refers to the “line running directly between Jew and Gentile.” (D&C 57: 4.) The “Jew” being the American Indian tribes located across the border, and the “gentile” being the Americans, including the LDS missionaries at the time.
In 1830 the first missionary to the “Lamanites” was called. Oliver Cowdery was told, among other things, the following: “And now, behold, I say unto you that you shall go unto the Lamanites and preach my gospel unto them; and inasmuch as they receive thy teachings thou shalt cause my church to be established among them; and thou shalt have revelations, but write them not by way of commandment. And now, behold, I say unto you that it is not revealed, and no man knoweth where the city Zion shall be built, but it shall be given hereafter. Behold, I say unto you that it shall be on the borders by the Lamanites.” (D&C 28: 8-9.)
People, places, opportunities and events would all change between the early 1830’s and the mid 1840’s. Dramatically. And so we will follow a few of those events and the accompanying revelations which reflect the dynamic changes among both the Saints and the Lamanites.